Millennium Post

Enhancing transparency

Reports state that the apex court has issued a notice to the Election Commission of India (ECI) based on a petition, which alleged that Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) used in the recent round of State elections had been manipulated. The ECI had earlier roundly debunked all allegations of tampering. It presented a detailed explanation about the steps taken to prevent such a thing from happening. Giving technical details of how EVMs are manufactured and function, the EC said the software used in these machines could never be altered. As one of the most reputable institutions in this country, one is tempted to take the ECI at its word. However, no EVM can be assumed to be invulnerable to a determined attacker. In a bid to quell all doubts, experts have called for an early rollout of the Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines in all polling stations across the country.

Many constitutional experts, including senior BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, have argued for a paper trail accompanying the electronic voting process, which confirms that the votes have been cast correctly. After an election, officials can tally electronically counted votes against paper records, thereby enhancing transparency in the system. In fact, the Supreme Court in 2012 directed the EC to upgrade the EVMs to include a paper trail. "From the materials placed by both the sides, we are satisfied that the "paper trail" is an indispensable requirement for free and fair elections. The confidence of the voters in the EVMs can be achieved only with the introduction of the "paper trail". EVMs with VVPAT (voter-verified paper audit trail) system ensure the accuracy of the voting system.

For transparency in the system, it is necessary to set up EVMs with VVPAT system because vote is nothing but an act of expression which has immense importance in a democratic system," the court said. Last year, Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi announced that polling for 2019 general elections would be conducted through paper trail-based electronic voting machines. The Centre should act on the court's directives as soon as possible.

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