2019 Polls: EC says verifying 50 per cent VVPAT slips will delay results

Chennai: The Election Commission of India told the Supreme Court that verifying 50 per cent of voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) slips from one EVM per Assembly segment will increase the time required for counting to about six days.

The ECI also said it was in favour of continuing the existing system of random checking of VVPAT slips from one EVM per Assembly segment for the Lok Sabha and Assembly polls.

The ECI’s affidavit filed Friday came in response to a petition by 21 political parties, which had sought directions to the poll body to randomly verify at least 50 per cent of electronic voting machines (EVMs) using VVPAT slips in the Assembly and general elections.

Hearing the plea 25 March, a bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi told the EC that it ‘would like’ the poll panel ‘to increase’ the number of random VVPAT checks, and asked it to indicate whether any insurmountable difficulty will be caused if the court issues an order to this effect.

In its reply filed, the EC explained the various measures associated with EVM and VVPAT, and said “The present system has been adopted after detailed study and consideration of all aspects, and bringing into play all safeguards and checks as have been felt necessary.”

It added that to alter the system when polls are imminent and polling is to commence from 11 April might not be feasible.

It said that in many Assembly constituencies, there are more than 400 polling stations, and it will require about eight-nine days to complete the VVPAT slip count. There will also likely be demands for recount of the VVPAT slips, and this will further increase the time, the affidavit stated.

The Commission said it had engaged the Indian Statistical Institute to submit a report in view of demands from political parties to increase the sample size for VVPAT slip verification from 10 per cent to 100 per cent. The report authored by an expert committee which was received 22 March said that “Any further increase in the sample size of verification will lead to very negligible gain in the confidence level.”

It also concluded that “Adoption of a particular percentage as a sample for VVPAT slip verification is devoid of any scientific logic or statistical basis.”

The affidavit said that increased VVPAT slip counting will require extensive training and capacity building of election officials in the field, and the number of such officials will have to be increased substantially. It also stated that this will “Require larger counting halls, which already pose a great difficulty in certain states.”

The poll panel said that any manual count “Is prone to human errors or deliberate mischief and any large-scale slip verification substantially compounds this likelihood of manual error and mischief in counting of votes.”

NT Bureau