Bringing transparency in electoral process and preventing malpractices is one of the formidable challenges that India has been trying to tackle for years. Even after the transformation from ballot paper system to electronic voting machines, not much headway could be made to rule out manipulation of poll results. As experts and individuals from the political fraternity started raising concerns about the vulnerability of EVMs, the government felt the need to further delve into the issue and introduce a more viable option.
Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) is a method of providing feedback to voters. It’s completely an independent verification system. For those uninitiated, VVPAT is a printer-like machine attached to every EVM that allows voters to verify that their vote has been cast correctly. Once a voter presses button of his choice in the EVM, a printed paper appears containing the name of the candidate and poll symbol so that he can verify it. After the voter views the receipt it goes inside a container linked to the EVM, which can be accessed only by the polling officers. This latest system is one step further towards prevention of electoral fraud.
History behind VVPAT System in India
During an All Party Meeting in 2010, political parties floated the suggestion of incorporating VVPAT along with the EVMs. Based on the suggestion, an Expert Committee was called into action to examine the possibility of a paper trail. The election commission also asked Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) and Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL) to create a prototype of VVPAT system.
As per the Technical Experts Committee’s recommendation, the system was field tested across five states in July 2011. Years later, the Supreme Court directed the Election Commission to introduce the VVPAT system during the 2014 general elections to ensure free and fair polls. BJP leader Subramanian Swamy has been advocating the use of such a device and it’s on the basis of his plea that the court ordered the commission to ensure that EVMs have a paper trail system. Moreover, there had been a spate of protests over the vulnerability of EVMs.
Introduction of VVPAT System in India
The Election Commission has been planning to introduce VVPAT system since 2011 when it started exploring the possibility of conducting first field trials. Although the system was first experimented during the Nagaland by-elections in 2013, Mizoram was the first state to introduce VVPAT on a large scale. It was used in 10 assembly constituencies of Aizawl district. On a national level, the system was introduced in 8 of 543 parliamentary constituencies during the 2014 general elections. It was used in 516 polling stations across eight states.
Future Plans for use of VVPAT system in India
Going by the overall positive feedback from the voters, the election commission is now keen on increasing the usage of VVPAT devices in the forthcoming assembly elections. Since the device is compatible only with those EVMS manufactured after 2006, the commission is reportedly trying to achieve “all India VVPAT coverage” by 2019 elections.
Manipur Assembly Elections 2017