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Tech trip takes toll on poll

Electronic voting machines (EVMs) proved a hindrance to the smooth conduct of the civic polls across the city.

Complaints against malfunctioning or defunct EVMs started pouring in from as early as 8am, when the presiding officer of a booth in Jubilee Park (ward 94), off Prince Anwar Shah Road, was forced to suspend polling following a mismatch between the number of votes cast and the figures displayed on the machine.

“From 7 to 8am, 48 people had cast their votes but the machine registered only one. We had no option but to suspend polling,” said the presiding officer of booth 13A at Jatiya Shishu Siksha Sadan.

A similar complaint came from a booth at Deshbandhu Girls’ School (ward 83) on Sadananda Road. Forty-two votes were cast in the first 75 minutes, but the machine showed only eight votes.

The chief of the state election commission, Mira Pande, said repolling might be ordered in the two booths in wards 94 and 83.

Poll panel secretary S.N. Roychowdhury said: “Our technical experts will look into the problem.”

At a booth in Mahadevi Birla Shishu Vihar in Ballygunge (ward 65), a voting machine developed a snag and the replacement, too, proved faulty. Voting resumed after a third machine was brought in.

“When I went to the booth at 7.10am, there were only three people in front of me. But I could cast my vote only at 8.45, thanks to the faulty machines,” said Nupur Ghosh, 43, a resident of Bondel Road.

The state election commission replaced an EVM in a Behala booth after Trinamul candidate Dola Sarkar (ward 128) complained that a polling official had operated the machine the previous night in violation of rules. The official, too, was taken off duty.

Sector officer S. Banerjee said: “Action was taken on the basis of the complaint. We are probing the charges.”

Panel chief Pande attributed most of the EVM glitches to link failure. “The machines that became defunct because of link failure were replaced almost immediately. The snags halted polling for a maximum of 15-20 minutes in each booth,” she added.

The commission has 26,000 EVMs, of which it deployed 11,000 for the civic polls. Another 6,000 were kept on standby.

Trinamul leader and Union minister Mukul Roy said: “We believe the commission would conduct repolling at all the booths where people could not vote because of the faulty EVMs.”

Roy had complained to the panel, stating that officials had tampered with the machines under the guise of changing batteries.

Names marked: At a booth in Mukundapur (ward 109), 57 people were unable to vote because their names were ticked off on the presiding officer’s list. “I am unaware why their names were marked in my list,” said presiding officer Parmeswar Kumar.

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