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Voter 'should be able to verify': Vote is cast, recorded as intended, counted as recorded

Counterview Desk 

In a memorandum to the Election Commission of India, several prominent scholars, activists and former government officials, have insisted that EVM/VVPAT voting does not comply with the essential ‘Democracy Principles’ -- that each voter should be able to verify that her vote is cast-as-intended, recorded-as-cast and counted-as-recorded.
“Though the ECI has arranged for all EVMs to be accompanied with VVPAT-device, the Voter-Verifiable Paper Trail has been reduced to the level of a ‘bioscope’ which shows up a tiny ‘paper slip’ for seven seconds which then vanishes and is not counted”, it said, adding, “The VVPAT system should be re-calibrated to be fully voter-verifiable.”
The memorandum demanded, “A voter should be able to get the VVPAT slip in her hand and cast it in a chip-free ballot box for the vote to be valid. These VVPAT slips should be fully counted first for all constituencies before the results are declared.”

Text:

Modern India’s greatest pride is that it is the world’s largest and a vibrant democracy. Over the last few years, however, there have been serious concerns regarding the country’s electoral process due to lack of public trust in EVM/VVPAT voting, reports of arbitrary deletions in Electoral Rolls and increased secrecy in political party funding.
EVM/VVPAT voting does not comply with the essential ‘Democracy Principles’ - that each voter should be able to verify that her vote is cast-as-intended, recorded-as-cast and counted-as-recorded. Though the ECI has arranged for all EVMs to be accompanied with VVPAT-device, the “Voter-Verifiable Paper Trail” has been reduced to the level of a ‘bioscope’ which shows up a tiny ‘paper slip’ for seven seconds which then vanishes and is not counted.
The Citizens’ Commission on Elections, headed by a former Judge of the Supreme Court of India, consulted top national and international experts on the vexatious issue of EVM/VVPAT voting, and concluded that:
  • It does not provide provable guarantees against hacking, tampering and spurious vote injections.
  • VVPAT system does not allow the voter to verify the slip before the vote is cast.
There have been several reports of arbitrary deletions and missing names in the Electoral Rolls of voters belonging to minority communities and disadvantaged groups. This calls into question the integrity of the Electoral Rolls based on which elections are conducted.
Electoral funding in the country compromises the integrity of democracy in multiple ways. The introduction of electoral bonds, which allow donors to anonymously donate unlimited amounts of funds to political parties, militate against basic principle of transparency and lend themselves to misuse by special interest groups, corporate lobbyists and foreign entities to acquire a stranglehold on the electoral process and governance at the expense of citizens.
We, the undersigned therefore demand that the ECI:

1. Ensure the integrity of voting and counting

i. The VVPAT system should be re-calibrated to be fully voter-verifiable. A voter should be able to get the VVPAT slip in her hand and cast it in a chip-free ballot box for the vote to be valid. These VVPAT slips should be fully counted first for all constituencies before the results are declared. For this purpose, VVPAT slips should be larger in size and must be printed in such a manner that they can be preserved for a minimum of five years.
ii. Subsequently, the results of the counting of VVPAT slips should be cross verified with the electronic tallies of the EVMs for every constituency before the results are declared. In case of any mismatch, the counting of the VVPAT slips should be treated as the final result as also laid down in Rule 56(d)(4)(b) of The Conduct of the Election (Amendment) Rules, 2013. Forms 17A (Register of electors) and Forms 17C (Account of votes recorded) must be tallied and be publicly disclosed at the end of polling on the polling day itself. Forms 17A and 17C should also be tallied with the manual count of VVPAT slips before the declaration of results.

2. Ensure the integrity of Electoral Rolls

i To prevent arbitrary deletions, the ECI must ensure that prior notice is issued to every voter whose name is proposed to be deleted. This has also been directed by the Supreme Court in its recent judgment dated 4-8-2023 in which it was stated “No deletion should be done without following due process of law as contained in the R P Act, 1950 and the Registration of Electors Rules, 1960. In all cases a notice must be issued to the elector and must be duly served on him”. This is critical to ensure that no voter is left behind.
ii The ECI should immediately implement a transparent and public system of Social Audit of Electoral Rolls. Voter’s lists must be publicly displayed in the most accessible manner and also made available on the ECI website in a searchable database. Citizens should be empowered to check their own information as well as that of bogus names and duplicates in their area.

3. Oppose Electoral Bonds and rein-in Money Power

The ECI must strongly advocate for transparency in political party funding and ensure that money-power does not sway elections and their outcome. It must oppose electoral bonds that provide for unlimited anonymous funding of political parties.
We urge upon the ECI to immediately act on the suggestions above, lest India gets counted among the countries holding bogus elections at “regular intervals in an organised manner”.
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Click here for prominent signatories 

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