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Sunday, June 16, 2024, 12:08 pm

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Maintain trust in voting machines

voting machines
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The Supreme Court’s decision to hear a petition brought by the usual suspects on several topics just before polling in the 18th General Election demonstrated that it had no intention of interfering with electronic voting machines. During the petition, the Supreme Court stated that paper ballots, whether with or without EVMs, will not be implemented nationwide. The cost of making significant changes to the way nearly a billion people use their franchise is staggering. The PIL questioned the credibility of the vote, claiming that EVMs might be manipulated to favour the ruling party at the centre. To address this suspicion, the court mandated that 5% of EVMs at random contain Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trails (VVPATs). This would increase trust in the EVMs and remove any doubts about their authenticity. Recently, a similar method has been implemented for polls. Those who fail to impress voters sometimes blame the EVMs for their defeat.

The Narendra Modi government did not introduce electronic voting machines. During Indira Gandhi’s tenure as prime minister in the early 1980s, the process began quietly. The Election Commission first tested EVMs in a Kerala constituency in 1982. EVMs improved over time and are now used in all Assembly and Lok Sabha elections.

It’s important to note that EVMs are employed in both BJP and opposition-controlled states. Polling malpractices are no longer commonly reported. In the first several parliamentary elections, it was not uncommon for the weaker sectors, particularly in rural areas, to be denied their fundamental right to vote. Candidates’ supporters stuffed ballot papers into designated boxes throughout the election process. Booth capturing and fake voting were prevalent in rural hinterlands, particularly in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh. According to political lore, Dalits were forcibly barred from voting in Assembly and Lok Sabha constituencies in western UP, where the late Jat leader Charan Singh was popular. The dominating castes cast their votes for their own candidates.

Changes began in the early 1980s, and it is now uncommon for members of marginalised groups to complain about others voting. EVMs and identity verification using Aadhaar were crucial for achieving near-complete transparency in the polling process. But the PILwallahas want to discard the EVMs? Ideally, each EVM should have a paper trail. This costly and time-consuming approach would cause delays in voting results. Previously, counting votes may take days due to the need to gather ballot boxes, organise them into bundles of 100, manually count them, set away invalid ballots, and collate the final results. Rival counting agents would argue over each ballot paper, claiming that votes for their candidate were invalidated or inflated.
EVMs have simplified the counting procedure, reducing it to a few hours. These machines are not easily rigged. Additionally, tampering with thousands of EVMs would need multiple individuals, making the intended robbery difficult to conceal.

The Modi government’s success with electronic money transfers through the Unified Payments Interface suggests that voting through similar software could be a viable option.  Maintaining transparency is crucial in this process. More than half a billion Indians now own smart phones, making voting via these devices a viable option, even for those who doubt the reliability of EVMs. EVMs are widely trusted by ordinary voters. Disrupting their faith will take away from the democratic process itself. Don’t let doubters and distrusters undermine our effective voting system.

 

ABHISHEK VERMA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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