Former CEC talks about VVPAT, bribing of voters & social media campaigns

N Gopalaswami

Chennai: “Voters can complain if they find irregularities in the electronic voting machines and VVPATs. But, if the allegation is false, the Election Commission will take action against that voter,” warned former Chief Election Commissioner, N Gopalaswami.

Ahead of the general elections in Tamilnadu on 18 April, Gopalaswami spoke to News Today at his T Nagar residence on the steps taken by the ECI to ensure fair polling and to make voting easier and accessible for all.

Excerpts from the interview:

How can voters verify their choice of candidate?

There can do it with Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) available at every polling booth in the country. The VVPAT device attached to the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) prints a small paper slip carrying the symbol, name and serial number of the candidate that the voter has voted for. This paper is visible to the voter for a period of seven seconds and can be used by the ECI to verify the votes. If any voter finds anything wrong in the slip, a complaint can be made to the Election Officer immediately. But, if the complaint is not proper, there is a provision to initiate action against the voter concerned.

Many politicos are leveling personal allegations against each other. Will the ECI take action?

The ECI has set out various guidelines for candidates to follow and reserves the right to initiate action against candidates making personal allegations while campaigning. But, one should understand the fact that the Commission’s role is to conduct the polls in a fair manner and taking legal action against these activities will result in an endless list of cases and costs a lot of money and time.

What are the steps taken by the Commission to create voter awareness among youngsters and first-time voters?

Technology comes in handy and the necessity to vote is emphasized at every possible avenue including via social media for the youngsters. A lot of awareness is created by the ECI through social media platforms to inform everyone to fulfil their democratic responsibility. The first time voters should understand the fact that they are going to elect a representative on their own and come forward willingly to exercise their franchise.

Crores of money are seized regularly from political outfits by the ECI. What is your view?

The Commission through its guidelines clearly mentions the spending limits of the candidates for campaigning activities in the constituencies. If any party is found exceeding the limit, it will be subjected to stringent action.

Do you feel voting methods have improved today compared to the time when you held office?

Electronic voting has made all the difference when compared to the physical pattern of voting (ballots). Though initiated during the 1980s, proper implementation of EVMs came only during the late 1990s and now we see voting made simple for the voters and also counting is easier on the other side.

Few words to the voters…

Voting in the election is not only a democratic right but it is a moral responsibility of every citizen. The Election Commission of India wants to help everyone come forward and cast their franchise on the day of polling to prove themselves a worthy citizen of the country.

G Srinivasan