Memorandum submitted by 22 political parties – regarding the process to be followed for counting of VVPAT slips in General Election- 2019
In the backdrop of probability of hacking of EVMs, the 22 political parties, which represents the voice of 70% of the electorate of our country, had reached out to the Election Commission of India in Jan 2019 to increase the VVPAT slips counting to 100% or revert to the old paper ballot system.
1. Subsequently, on 8th April 2019, the Hon’ble Supreme Court directed mandatory verification of VVPAT paper slips of randomly selected (05) polling stations instead of (01) in all assembly and bye elections to the house of people and state legislative assemblies .
2. The Election Commission in its letter dated 15th April 2019, prescribed that VVPAT slips for 05 polling stations shall be counted after the completion of last round of counting of votes recorded in the EVMs as under:
2.1 In case of general and Bye elections to State Legislative assemblies, verification of VVPAT slips of randomly (05) polling stations per assembly constituency.
2.1 In case of general and Bye elections to the house of people, verification of VVPAT paper slips of randomly selected 05 polling stations of each Assembly segment of the Parliamentary constituency concerned.
3.The Election Commission further in its letter dated 15th April 2019, laid down the procedure for mandatory verification of VVPAT slips. However, there are many discrepancies in the procedure prescribed by the ECI which is against the spirit of judgement of Hon’ble Supreme Court of India.
3.1In case of a discrepancy between the count of votes displayed on the Control Unit and the count of printed paper slips in respect of that polling station, the result sheet will be amended as per the printed paper slips count. ECI has not deliberated on the reasons of discrepancy and investigation into that. Also, it clearly specifies that there is a possibility of tampering of EVMs. The solution prescribed by ECI is for only 2% of polling stations, however, in the event of tampering of EVMs in the remaining 98% polling stations, which may so happen since the EVMs are prone to tampering, no guideline or procedure has been prescribed by ECI.
3.2ECI has conveniently avoided discussion on discrepancy in their letter (15th April 2019), leave alone finding a solution. ECI, in Annexure-Aprescribed reports of verification of paper slips of VVPAT of 5 randomly selected polling stations (Separate for each polling station-to be sent only to CEO concerned). In this report, the last column of the first table contains “Discrepancy if any” between number of votes cast as per EVM and as per paper slips. Surprisingly, this required is required to be sent by the Returning Officer and ECI observer to the Chief Electoral Officer of the State concerned only and NOT TO ECI. The ECI is confining these reports only to the CEOs. It is still not clear what the CEOs will do with these reports in case of any discrepancy.
3.3Further, Annexure B (Report format) which is addressed to Election Commission and certifies the entire process of counting has been done under close supervision, does not talk about any discrepancy, and further establishes the fact that ECI is not interested in knowing the cause of discrepancies.
Regarding the above mentioned discrepancies, the 22 opposition parties had voiced out to ECI on 6th May 2019, however no response or clarification has been received from ECI as yet.
4.Further, in addition to the above mentioned concerns, we also seek clarity on below mentioned guidelines prescribed under Handbook for Counting Agent - Feb 2019, document No 24, edition 1, for counting for General Elections 2019:
4.1If there is any mismatch between the CU and Form 17C (annexed) with regard to votes polled and the difference is significant, what is the procedure to be followed
4.2As per clause 13.1, in case of a discrepancy between part 1(Account of votes recorded) (annexed) and Part II (Result of counting) (annexed) of Form 17C, counting officer should note down such details and as per 13.2, he should bring to the notice of ARO/RO for appropriate action to be taken as per law. It is therefore requested to clarify the ‘law’ as per 13.2 and subsequent process to be followed.
4.3As per clause 12, following action to be taken in case of malfunctioning during counting of votes.
12.1.a In case any CU doesn’t not display result, it should be kept back inside its carrying case and to be kept in RO’s custody in the counting hall.
12.1.b. Result from such CU(s) will not be retrieved using Auxiliary display unit or printer.
12.1.c. After completion of counting of votes, all the CUs, printed paper slips of the respective VVPAT shall be counted as per the counting procedure prescribed by commission to count VVPAT slips.
Whether the above process of counting to be followed subsequently in counting hall or are there any changes to the above procedure.
4.4Clause 16.1 states, ‘Normally there will be no question of recount of votes recorded in the voting machines’. In case there is a need of reverification, recounting can be done by pressing the ‘result’ button, and the result of voting at that polling station will be displayed on display panels of CU and rule 63 of conduct of the elections will apply. Therefore, it is requested to delete clause 16.1 as it becomes inappropriate.
5.Therefore, In light of the above mentioned concerns, we the leaders of 22 political parties demand the following:
5.1It is requested that the verification of VVPAT slips of randomly identified (05) polling stations should be done prior to the initiation of counting of votes and not after the completion of last round of counting.
5.2If any discrepancy is found anywhere during the VVPAT verification, 100% counting of paper slips of VVPATs of all polling stations of that assembly segment should be done.
5.3The clarifications sought in 4.1, 4.2, 4.3, and 4.4 as mentioned above, should also be duly addressed and clarified.