VVPAT and how it is powering transparency in the Indian Voting System

Around 900 million eligible voters recently went out in the scorching heat (with a hope that this time it will be different, it will make a difference, and we will get to experience something even better in this term of elected government), so as to exercise the only useful right which represents us and more precisely, our interest and to make sure that our voice is being heard by the ones who are in power, You guessed it right, we are talking about the world’s biggest Poll Battle, the Lok Sabha election. As the Elections’ wave is flowing in the country and each one of us is celebrating the world’s largest democratic election exercise that we get to witness after every 5 years while participating in the selection of new government, there is something of more importance that plays a crucial role in the crystal clear execution of the entire election process and on which the fate of 543 candidates depends, the VVPAT machines.

As most of the battling parties in this years’ election put into public their roadmap of development for the next five years, and engaged themselves into an intensive discussion with people from different regions, communities and classes across the country with the aim of rolling out the most persuasive and influential ”Manifesto”, stating that the newly elected government will direct the country on the path of socio-economic growth and development, will achieve the highest goals of agricultural development, will enhance the empowerment of every section of society including women, youth, and weaker sections, will expedite the delayed infrastructure programmes, will invest in building the world class educational institutes and skill centres, will dedicate a few more healthcare centres to the nation and most importantly, will sort the issues that most of us have grown up listening to, and what not..!!

Since I have already mentioned it that the election exercise in our country is the biggest one in the entire world, carrying out this intense process without attracting any criticism or landing into any political conundrum is beyond the bounds of possibility. Anyway, to make the converse a reality, an autonomous constitutional authority, Election Commission of India, has been held responsible for administering the election processes freely and fairly since 1951 when the citizens of India participated in the very first election exercise. Traditionally, voting happened by allotting each candidate a differently-coloured ballot box at the polling booth, where voters were supposed to cast their votes. The journey from ballot box to the inclusion of technologically updated, credible and transparent VVPAT (voter verifiable paper audit trail) machines in the election process wasn’t as easy as it sounds or it is to write or read. It was jam-packed with protests, allegations of tampering with the EVMs (Electronic Voting Machines) and controversies that still refuse to die down.

The Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail is a method that provides instant feedback to voters as they cast their vote. It is an independent verification printer machine and is attached to electronic voting machines. It allows voters to verify if their vote has gone to the intended candidate. When a voter presses a button in the EVM, VVPAT comes into action. VVPAT generates a paper slip which contains the party symbol along with the name of the candidate and shows it on a screen for a few seconds, which helps the voter to verify his/her choice. After being visible to the voter from a glass case in the VVPAT, the ballot slip will be cut and dropped into the drop box in the VVPAT machine and a beep will be heard. This is how this newly inducted voting machine works and I’m sure most of you who are eligible to vote, must have experienced it in the recent Lok Sabha elections. The need for the incorporation of VVPAT arose due to growing accusations of tampering with EVMs during election process, coming from opposition parties while insisting on doing away with EVMs. The allegations were growing at this fast pace that the EC once threw open a challenge, inviting computer experts and political leaders to prove that the machines can be hacked, in the presence of the EVM manufacturers. Infact, lately we have been listening on the news channels reporting about the opposition parties demanding for the tallying of Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) slips in certain polling booths in each Assembly segment with the electronic voting machines (EVMs) prior to the counting of votes. However, there is no action taken by the Election Commission on this demand and also it doesn’t seem that EC would be reacting affirmatively on this as well.

In the end, I would pile up the topic stating that, with an intent to have fullest transparency and credibility in the system, to make opposition and other political parties believe that they have been heard and acted accordingly and most importantly, to restore the confidence of the voters, it was necessary to instate VVPAT with the outmoded election process and to set up EVMs with VVPAT system because vote is nothing but an act of expression which has immense importance in democratic system.