ECI Rolls Out New System In J&K Polls For More Transparent Voting

27 October 2014
The Daily Excelsior
Mohinder Verma

Jammu: Election Commission of India has decided to roll out its new system of ensuring transparent voting during the forthcoming Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir albeit in some selected constituencies on experimental basis. Under this system, each and every voter would be able to verify the status of the votes soon after casting the same that too in the printed form. This system is called Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) and was successfully used in some Parliamentary constituencies during the Lok Sabha polls and selected segments in Haryana and Maharashtra elections. Official sources told EXCELSIOR that Election Commission of India has decided to bring some constituencies of Jammu and Kashmir under the ambit of this new system during the forthcoming Assembly elections in order to ensure more transparency and to generate awareness among the electorates about the VVPAT so that in future elections this system is used on a large scale. This system has been developed jointly by the Bharat Electronics Limited, Bangalore and Electronics Corporation of India Limited and is a method of providing feedback to voters during a ballot less voting system. 'The VVPAT is an independent verification system for Electronic Voting Machines that allows voters to verify that their votes are cast as intended', sources said, adding 'this system can serve as an additional barrier to changing or destroying votes and remove any apprehension of the voters with regard to functioning of the EVMs'. In response to a question, sources said that under VVPAT a printer-like apparatus is linked to Electronic Voting Machine and when a vote is cast, a receipt is generated showing the serial number, name and symbol of the candidate the vote has been cast for. 'It confirms the vote and the voter can verify the details. The receipt, once viewed, goes inside a container linked to the EVM and can only be accessed by the election officer in rarest of the rare cases. No voter is allowed to take away the slip', they added. Stating that the VVPAT system was not manufactured due to doubts on the EVM but was part of the up-gradation of the system, sources said that in case a voter finds the vote did not appear on slip accurately the voter will be allowed to cast vote again but only after submission of a declaration to the Presiding Officer. They disclosed that as the system is going through the experimental stage, the Election Commission has selected only Gandhi Nagar (71), Jammu East (72) and Jammu West (73) Assembly segments where each and every EVM would be connected with VVPAT system. The VVPAT units have already been dispatched from Bihar for use in these constituencies and on the arrival of such units in Jammu on November 1, the engineers of the Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) would impart training to Master Trainers, sources said. Thereafter, these Master Trainers would train the Presiding Officers and Polling Staff. In this way, around 2500 officers and officials engaged for about 500 Polling Stations in these three Assembly segments would be trained for effective use of new system of transparency. According to the sources, Election Commission has directed the Chief Electoral Officer of J&K, Umang Narula to conduct training to the polling personnel and create widespread awareness among the voters of these constituencies on use of VVPAT with EVMs. When asked, they said that only the Election Commission of India selects constituencies for use of VVPAT with EVMs on experimental basis and in this regard convenience of voters, number of voters and various other aspects are kept in mind. 'Basically, the Election Commission wants to generate awareness about this more transparent method among the voters so as to make use of VVPAT with EVMs in all future elections', they added.