The Telegraph
Thursday , March 6 , 2014
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Many tests, but no paper audit trail

- Meghalaya goes to polls on April 9; NOTA button comes into play for first time

Shillong, March 5: Sohra, once the wettest place on earth, was one of the locations where the Election Commission first tested the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) system in 2011 and 2012.

But for 2014’s battle for Delhi, neither the Shillong parliamentary seat nor the Tura constituency will see the VVPAT put into use.

However, the chief electoral officer of Meghalaya, P. Naik, said the VVPAT, which is attached to the electronic voting machines, will be used in select constituencies in other parts of the country.

The VVPAT is an independent verification system for voting machines. It is designed to allow voters to verify if their votes have been cast correctly. The technology also provides room to detect possible election fraud or malfunction and audit the stored electronic results.

While announcing that elections to Shillong and Tura parliamentary constituencies would be held on April 9, Naik said the VVPAT would not be utilised for these polls. However, the None Of The Above (NOTA) button will come into play for the first time, he said.

The Election Commission did not spell out whether fresh elections would be conducted if more than 50 per cent voters press the NOTA button.

The VVPAT system was used in at least 10 constituencies in Mizoram during last year’s Assembly polls.

Naik said there would be 1,633 polling stations in 36 Assembly segments in the Shillong parliamentary constituency and there will be 929 polling stations in 24 Assembly segments in the Tura parliamentary seat.

There are 138 polling stations in 102 locations bordering Assam and 90 polling stations in 79 locations bordering Bangladesh.

As on January 14, 2014, there will be 9,68,958 voters (male: 4,73,888, female: 4,95,070) in Shillong parliamentary seat, and 5,84,070 electors (male: 2,95,823, female: 2,88,247) in Tura parliamentary constituency.

In the 2009 polls, there were 7,71,176 voters in Shillong and 2,50,992 in Tura. The voter turnout in 2009 was 62.23 per cent in Shillong and 67.66 per cent in Tura.

The state has asked for nearly 79 companies of central paramilitary forces, but the commission will sort out the final figure. The expenditure ceiling for candidates has been fixed at Rs 70 lakh per candidate while Rs 29 crore will be spent on the elections.

Meghalaya chief minister Mukul Sangma today said “corruption” would be the most prominent issue in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

Sangma, who is also the leader of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP), said the party would go to the people with the anti-corruption measures undertaken by the Congress-led UPA government. “One of the important issues before the people in this election is corruption. I see many of political parties asking for votes using only this issue,” he said.

On the large number of scams in the country in recent years, the chief minister said: “They (corruption issues) are bound to come up and some more instances of corruption are bound to be unearthed in the years to come. This is because corruption has been a problem for a long time.”

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