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Saturday, May 14, 2016

Vote without fail - it is a duty ! - what is VVPAT - paper trail of EVM

Anything on Containers and Marine interest me .. though this is different !!  In a Vadivelu comedy – Vadivelu would be tense overseeing elections – one of them would vouch to both the candidates that he had voted in his favour. When further questioned, he would state that he had cast the mark on both !; the other [muthukalathi] when questioned would state that ‘anne, you are not believing me and hence I have the proof of here – so stating he would show the ballot paper itself !!’ – such things cannot occur in EVM.

16th May 2016 is the all important day for the State of Tamil Nadu – the day of Assembly Elections – votes of which will be counted on 19th May. Voting is not a right, it is a duty – do vote without fail …the Election Commission is spreading awareness of ethical voting.

Statistically, there  are over 5.79 crore voters in the electoral rolls and 65,616 polling stations in Tamil Nadu.  For the 234 constituencies across the state there are to be  66,007 polling stations. A total of 107,210 electronic voting machines, including reserves are made available for the election and there are 75,908 control units including reserves. Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) is being allotted to booths in 17 constituencies, for the voters to verify their votes has been cast to the intended candidate. A total of 3,776 candidates are contesting in the election.

Historically, the  first legislative assembly Election to the Madras state on the basis of universal adult suffrage was held in March 1952. This was the first election held in Madras state after the Indian Independence. This election was officially known as 1951 Madras State Election, even though through delays, actual voting didn't take place until early 1952. No single party obtained a simple majority to form an independent Government.

The Election Commission Saturday said Rs 570 crore, seized from three containers in Tamil Nadu two days ahead of assembly polls there, is “prima facie suspect cash” as no agency or organisation has come forward to claim it. Indian Express reports that Electoral officials in Tamil Nadu Saturday seized about Rs 570 crore from three containers during checking in Tirupur district, which the occupants of the vehicles claimed was for inter-bank money transfer.  The containers escorted by three cars, did not halt, but officials chased them and stopped them near Chengapalli. A check revealed the amount, kept in many boxes, inside the containers, they said.  Though it was claimed that it was SBI transporting cash to Vizag branches, reportedly, proper documents were not produced and the  vehicles were taken to the District Collectorate in Tirupur.

Elections are interesting ~ I have been a representative of candidate when manual counting used to take place – that also underwent many changes – there used to huge boxes for each candidate into which votes polled for them would be put and would be count round-wise; sometime they combined votes of various polling booths so that parties may not know which area voted for whom…….. centuries ago, the State had elections to village councils, the precursors to present-day Village Panchayats. The epigraphical inscription on the walls of the Vaikuntha Perumal temple at Uthiramerur in Chengalput District bears ample testimony to this.  In vogue was the pot-ticket system of election ( kudavolai murai ).

Not long ago, was the practice of some top brass of parties contesting from 2 seats – there was also  2 (or multi) seat constituencies ….. ?  ‘spreading of risks’ is one the basic tenets of insurance … ‘wise men will not put all eggs in one basket’ – and successful Insurers will have spread of risk, geographically and portfolio-wise.  To some the political equivalent of spread betting, vying from two constituencies ~ even seasoned politicians were doing that in India.   It required a law to stop people from contesting from more than 2 – and as far as I could glean, there appears no single instance of any candidate contesting from 2 places in this elections to TN Assembly 2016.

Voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) or verified paper record (VPR) is a method of providing feedback to voters using a ballotless voting system. A VVPAT is intended as an independent verification system for voting machines designed to allow voters to verify that their vote was cast correctly, to detect possible election fraud or malfunction, and to provide a means to audit the stored electronic results. The VVPAT offers some fundamental differences as a paper, rather than computer memory, recording medium when storing votes. A paper VVPAT is readable by the human eye and voters can directly interpret their vote.  

The immediate thought that occurred was that, if there were to be a copy of voting, would some musclemen try to obtain that and threaten voters – it appears that such thing may not happen. It is stated that printed papr would appear with the name of candidate and poll symbol enabling the voter to verify and once it is viewed, it will go inside a container linked to EVM, which can be accessed only by polling officers. This would provide paper audit trail but would not show who cast for whom !

Voter-verified paper audit trail was first used in an election in India in September 2013 in Noksen (Assembly Constituency) in Nagaland.  The Conduct of Election Rules, 1961, had been amended to facilitate implementation of the court order. The Ministry of Law and Justice notified the amendments in 2013.  The court had permitted the commission to introduce VVPAT in a phased manner as the project cost was estimated at Rs.1,690 crore.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

14th May 2016.

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