ELECTION COMMISSION PICKS UP THE ELITE SEAT TO IMPLEMENT ITS LATEST INNOVATION FOR TRANSPARENT POLLS
By bappaditya paul
The Jadavpur Lok Sabha constituency, considered an elite seat, is going to be the only Parliamentary constituency in West Bengal that will get a hands on experience on vote acknowledgement slips this time.The Election Commission (EC) has picked up Jadavpur to try its latest innovation of generating an acknowledgement slip every time a vote is cast on an Electronic Voting Machine (EVM). Ornamentally named the Voter-verified Paper Audit Trail or VVPAT, it is aimed at raising the level of transparency in the poll process.
According to EC sources, other than Jadavpur, there will be barely another six to seven Parliamentary constituencies in the country that will see the use of VVPAT this Lok Sabha elections.
The Jadavpur Lok Sabha seat consists of seven Assembly segments ~ Tollygunge, Jadavpur, Bhangor, Sonarpur North, Sonarpur South, Baruipur East and Baruipur West. The total number of voters in the constituency is 15.78 lakh, of which around 8-lakhs are male and 7.74-lakh females. “Jadavpur Parliamentary constituency has a total of 1,959 polling booths and the EVMs in all of them will be equipped with a VVPAT machine to generate the vote acknowledgement slips. For this, Bengal will get around 2,600 VVPAT machines; the extra machines are meant to replace the malfunctioning ones, if any,” said an EC source.
A senior official in the West Bengal Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) said that they were hoping to get the VVPAT machines by 31 March. These will come either from Bangalore or Hyderabad where two Public Sector Undertakings (PSU) are manufacturing them. “Since VVPAT machines will be used for the first time in the state, we will need some extra time to train the polling personnel on its use and function. Normally, we train them in two phases ~ the first day training is conducted seven days before the day of poll notification and the second day training is imparted 12 days before the poll day. The training period is expected to go up by a day with the training on VVPAT being held in the second phase,” the officer said.
A VVPAT machine is installed inside a voting compartment and is connected with the EVM. On pressing a button on the EVM ballot unit, a small monitor on the VVPAT machine displays for about 20 seconds the voter’s serial number and the name of the candidate whom s/he has voted for. This information then automatically gets printed on a piece of paper like an ATM slip and gets stored in a sealed compartment inside the VVPAT. The slips will be counted against the serial number of every voter during the counting of votes. “During the poll, if a voter claims that VVPAT has displayed a candidate whom s/he did not vote, the presiding officer will ask for a written complaint. After this, the voter will be asked to once again press a button on the EVM in presence of all polling agents and if the VVPAT correctly displays the corresponding candidate’s name, it will be considered that the voter had lied.”
“The voter will be then handed over to the police with a recommendation to charge him/her for fraud,” explained an EC official.
(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report first appeared in The Statesman on 23 March 2014.)