April 7: If you have the technology, why not use it? This was the common refrain of voters when news about electronic voting machine (EVM) malfunctioning and alleged tampering started doing the rounds in the first phase of polling in Assam.
Popular singer and composer Manash Robin, who cast his vote at Cherakapar in Sivasagar under Jorhat constituency, was among those who pitched for the introduction of VVPAT or the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail system which will enable a voter to know if his vote has gone to the candidate he has voted for. A VVPAT is connected to the EVM and a paper ballot comes out once the button on the EVM is pressed. The paper ballot falls into a box after around five seconds, enough for the voter to verify if his vote is cast right. These stored ballots can also be used if there is recounting.
VVPAT was first used in the Noksen Assembly byelection in Nagaland in September 2013, followed by 10 constituencies during Mizoram Assembly polls in November.
Robin said, “The voters have the right to know whether the vote they cast had gone to the right candidate. The Election Commission should have implemented VVPATs at all the voting centres to avoid confusion among voters. If we have the technology, why not use it?” he asked.
Juri Borthakur, a school teacher from Jorhat constituency, Manoj Phukan, an IT professional from Golaghat in Kaliabor constituency, first-time voter Shiromoni Choudhury from Tezpur constituency and Vishal Damani, a businessman from Sivasagar, echoed Robin. “The EVM with VVPAT would be very good,” Borthakur said. Phukan added, “Since there is a lot of talk about EVM tampering, it will be a little more secure with the VVPAT”.
Assam chief electoral officer Vijayendra said 42 EVMs had developed technical snags in the first phase of polling in the state today, mostly in Jorhat and Tezpur. “There were problems relating to votes not being cast as intended in six centres,” he said. The matter has been reported to the Election Commission.
There was no EVM problem in Tripura. The electronic voting machines — altogether 2,607 were deployed in 1,605 polling stations with an equal number in reserve — have been working well all over West Tripura parliamentary constituency to the satisfaction of voters.
After the 2008 Assembly election, the Opposition Congress had accused the CPM of “digital rigging through manipulated EVMs” but no such allegation has been made since. Most voters in the five constituencies of Assam and the West Tripura constituency, which went to polls today, felt polling was fast through EVMs.