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Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) Machines

Context:

The Election Commission of India was criticized for not being transparent and keeping political parties out of the loop regarding defects in the Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines.

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of Article:

  1. Criticism against the Election Commission (EC) and its actions
  2. Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) Machines
  3. Challenges with VVPAT machines

Criticism against the Election Commission (EC) and its actions:

Lack of Transparency:

  • EC did not inform political parties about the identification of 6.5 lakh VVPAT machines as defective.
  • EC needs to restore public faith and trust in the electoral process by being transparent.

Large number of defective machines:

  • The number of machines in which defects have been found is more than 1/3rd (37%) the number used in the 2019 Lok Sabha election.
  • This could have affected voters in the last general election and subsequent Assembly poll.
  • Thousands of VVPATs with consecutive serial numbers in entire batches from different manufacturers have been found defective.
  • The defects are serious enough that the machines have been returned to the manufacturers.

Non-adherence to standard procedures:

  • The EC did not follow standard operating procedures (Model Code of Conduct) that the panel had framed for itself.
  • Field officers are required to identify defects, and any faults should be identified within 7 days.

Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) Machines:

  • VVPAT is an independent verification printer that is attached to electronic voting machines (EVMs).
  • Its purpose is to allow voters to verify that their votes have been recorded accurately.
  • As soon as a voter presses the button on the EVM, the VVPAT machine prints a slip containing the name and symbol of the party they voted for, which is visible to the voter for around 7 seconds.
  • VVPAT Machines were first introduced in India during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections to increase transparency and eliminate doubts about the accuracy of EVMs.
  • Only polling officers have access to the VVPAT machines.
  • According to the Election Commission of India (ECI), EVMs and VVPATs are separate entities and are not connected to any network.

Challenges with VVPAT machines:

Technical malfunctions:

  • Possibility of technical malfunctions is a primary concern with VVPAT machines.
  • Malfunctions can result in inaccurate printing or no printing of the paper receipt of the vote cast by the voter.

Verification of paper trails:

  • Verification of paper trails generated by the VVPAT machines is another challenge.
  • It is not always clear how this record can be verified, especially in cases of discrepancies between electronic and paper records.

Public confidence:

  • Recent reports of defective VVPAT machines have eroded public confidence in the electoral process.
  • Lack of transparency and accountability on the part of the EC has raised questions about the fairness and accuracy of elections.

Legal mandate:

  • The Supreme Court in Dr. Subramanian Swamy v ECI (2013) held that VVPAT is an “indispensable requirement of free and fair elections”.

-Source: The Hindu


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