New voting machines in coming assembly polls to protect voters’ identity

One need not fear a backlash even if one has not voted for a winning candidate. The government has given it’s go-ahead to a proposal of Election of Commission of India to use totaliser machines for counting votes, which would focus on the assembly rather than make a booth-based tally. The rationale behind the move is to ensure voter secrecy in assembly as well as parliamentary elections.

A five-member panel consisting of Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari and Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad have backed the poll panel’s initiative. Now, the matter is with the Law Ministry for its approval, and consideration of all legal ramifications.

The prime objective of the move is to encourage equal distribution of government schemes especially those sanctioned by public representatives in every village, even if some sections didn’t vote in favour of the winning candidate. According to officials, the EC would use the machine in upcoming assembly elections in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Punjab.

Explaining the functioning of the totaliser machine, an official said, “A cluster of booth-based electronic voting machines (EVMs) would be connected simultaneously and the consolidated result of votes cast for each candidate in that group of EVMs would be obtained by pressing the result button in the totaliser, without disclosing the votes secured by a candidate in a particular polling-station.”

Elaborating further, the official said, “Before showing such consolidated result of counting, the totaliser will first indicate only the total number of votes recorded in each EVM individually along with the unique identification numbers of the individual EVMs to demonstrate to polling agents.”

According to a senior government official, out of the six national parties, three – Bahujan Samaj Party, Congress and Nationalist Congress Party, have categorically supported the proposal, while CPI (M) has agreed with the rider that the functioning of the totaliser should be foolproof and that it should be tried in phases.

The Bharatiya Janata Party, though, of the view that booth wise performance monitoring helped parties in booth management, it did not oppose the proposal. Several regional parties including the Aam Aadmi Party, Shiromani Akali Dal, Shiv Sena, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and DMK have supported the move.
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