From the Viewsroom

Restoring secrecy of ballot

Tina Edwin | Updated on April 18, 2019

The EC needs to club EVM votes before counting them

Maneka Gandhi let out an open secret over the past week – that there is no such thing as a secret ballot. Secrecy has become a notional concept in the recent years, and more so after the introduction of the electronic voting machines. While a voter would like to believe that no one other than her and anyone she confides in would know who she voted for, that no longer holds true. The main political parties have a near accurate idea of voting patterns in a neighbourhood, and therefore people who might not vote for it. This is because the votes cast in the EVMs are counted and tallied booth-wise. The task of identifying voting patterns on the basis voters’ caste and creed is quite easy, as each EVM is used for about 1,400 electors. This advantage that political parties have can be neutralised if the Election Commission were to deploy totalisers to count votes in a constituency, such that votes in 14 EVMs are counted simultaneously. While the EC as well as the Law Commission have been in favour of using of totalisers, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government at the Centre and the All India Trinamool Congress have been against the move.

Given that elections in India have become increasingly polarised and many politicians have been employing intimidating tactics, the Election Commission needs to relook the proposal and seek support from all the political parties to deploy these machines, if possible during the counting of votes for 2019 General Elections. Using totalisers is akin to the practice of mixing ballots of a constituency in the big drum prior to counting during the pre-EVM days. While such a practice will take away the ability of the political parties and their candidates to identify voting patterns within a block or a neighbourhood, it will also reduce the fear of wrath of political parties among the voters.

The Election Commission needs to bat for making democracy truly vibrant and for voters’ rights to free and fair elections as well as secrecy of their ballot. It cannot afford to allow parties the room to punish and reward voters on the basis of their voting patterns or indulge in what politicians euphemistically call booth management.

For the latest on elections, click: Elections 2019

Published on April 18, 2019

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