Count all VVPAT Slips for “Fullest Transparency” and to “Restore the Confidence of the Voters”
To Sh. Sunil Arora,
Chief Election Commissioner
Nirvachan Sadan, Ashoka Road,
New Delhi 110001
As the third phase of the Lok Sabha Elections 2019 has come to a close, news of malfunctioning Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and controversies surrounding them, continue to pour in from across the country.
Voting is a citizen’s basic right that gives legitimacy, strength and body to the will of the people in the formation of a government and the core of a democracy.
The existing voting system requires a voter to record his/her electoral choice by pressing a button of the EVM. This unfortunately is entirely opaque and unverifiable to the voter. The lack of transparency in this voting system takes away from free and fair elections and thereby undermines the very functioning of a democracy.
This demand is different from and goes beyond the demand for effective audit of EVM’s through VVPAT counting on which the recent Supreme Court Judgement was based. And requires fresh cognisance on the part of the Election Commission.
Further, the credibility of the voting process cannot be undermined by doubts of technological error and possible manipulation of the EVMs. The conduct of the election process should not only be fair, but should also appear to be fair- equally to all citizens.
In 2009, the German Constitutional Court held that the exclusive use of EVMs for recording and counting of votes was unconstitutional, and explained the rationale of a paper ballot for purposes of transparency and credibility to the elector.
To ensure Transparency and inspire voter confidence, the Supreme Court of India ordered that Voter-verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) be made an essential feature of the EVM machines.
In 2013, the Supreme Court reiterated “We are satisfied that the “paper trail” is an indispensable requirement of free and fair elections.
However, the VVPAT system is not being used for counting the ballot. Rather, the VVPAT has been diluted into an audit mechanism and the opaque EVM into the ballot to be counted. If the VVPAT slips were to be used for counting it would eliminate the doubts that are raised about manipulation and malfunction of the machines, as well as delink the debate about audit methodologies from the ballot.
We therefore strongly suggest that the VVPAT slips be recognised as the ballot paper – and as a consequence - each voter slip must be counted for the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections.
In the future however, to further strengthen transparency and voter confidence, the VVPAT slip should be generated and received by the voter who will themselves drop the slip in the ballot box. The EVM can additionally be used as a cross check mechanism.
The Constitution guarantees the right to vote to every single adult citizen of this country. However, it does not speak of the statistical probability of the successful recording of the vote.
The exercise of universal adult franchise for citizens is a right won through struggle and is the bedrock of modern Indian democracy. The paper ballot remains one of the most credible methods of casting a vote.
In the interest of greater transparency and more credibility in the election process we, as citizens of India, demand that
100 percent of the VVPAT slips, which we consider the real ballot, be counted after voting. The outcome of the elections is far more critical than the additional hours this exercise would require.
Rule 49 MA be amended to the extent it criminalises a voter who has complained, if the test audit conducted through the next vote, does not confirm the complaint.
Anything less than this would be a dilution of the universal, and constitutionally protected principles of transparency and voter confidence.