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All you wanted to know about...VVPAT

ASHWINI PHADNIS | Updated on March 09, 2018

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The Cabinet on April 19 agreed to release over ₹3,100 crore so that the Election Commission (EC) could procure 1.6 million VVPAT (Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail) machines.

These can hopefully be used in all polling stations in the General Elections in 2019. It’s been seven years since the EC first mooted the use of these machines.

Based on consultations with political parties the EC was of the view that VVPATs will help ensure transparency in the voting process.

These machines were first used in a by-election in Nagaland in 2013. Small numbers of VVPATs have also been used in other elections in the country.

What is it?

A VVPAT is a machine that is attached to the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM). A voter casts his or her vote on the EVM as is currently being done.

The VVPAT attached to the EVM generates a paper slip which has the name of the candidate voted for and the symbol of his party. This is recorded in the machine’s control unit. A printer is attached to the balloting unit and kept in the voting compartment.

The paper slip remains visible on the VVPAT for seven seconds through a transparent window. The paper slip can later be retrieved and tallied with the button pressed in the EVM.

The use of VVPATs falls under Rule 49A of the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961, which provides that every EVM shall have a control unit and a balloting unit. It further states that a printer with a drop box may also be attached to a voting machine for printing a paper trail of the vote.

Why is it important?

In case of any dispute, the paper slips in the VVPATs can be tallied with the buttons pressed on the EVMs. These printed slips can be counted to verify the results.

At the moment, EVMs do not have this feature of cross checking. The use of VVPATs becomes important as a number of political parties have raised questions about the EVMs being tamper proof.

Though the EC has maintained that the EVMs cannot be tampered with, the use of VVPATs will ensure that there is greater transparency in the voting process.

Why should I care?

As a part of the democratic process, every voter has the right to know that his or her vote went to the candidate chosen. VVPATs will ensure this and further strengthen the electoral process in the country.

It is also perhaps the final step in making the voting process as transparent as it can get. Changes in the law over the decades have sought to make elections in the country fool-proof.

In 1989, the law was amended to give the EC the power to countermand elections if it was proved that a candidate had used muscle power to win.

This put an end to booth capturing. The introduction of VVPATs will give the EC the proof to back its claim of holding free and fair elections. It will put to rest the allegations raised by various political parties about EVMs being tampered with as was seen after the recent Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.

The bottomline

The proof of the voting is in the printing.

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Published on April 24, 2017

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