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Voting in new style a success - Counting in SohRa gives thumbs-up to vvpat

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ANDREW W. LYNGDOH   |   Published 28.07.11, 12:00 AM

Sohra/Shillong, July 27: The overall performance of the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) in the mock poll in Sohra (Cherrapunjee) and Shella has been rated as a success following the counting of votes today at Sohra.

A mock poll in the two Assembly constituencies in Meghalaya’s East Khasi Hills district was conducted yesterday to test the newly-developed VVPAT to improve authenticity during elections.

Except for a few human errors which occurred during the handling of ballot papers at the time of polling, the accuracy of the printers to the existing Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) has been satisfactory.

The entire exercise was painstaking and time-consuming as officials had to first register the votes recorded in the EVM before counting the ballot papers which were printed once a voter had cast his vote against a candidate. This was done in order to prove whether the votes registered in the EVM tallied with the number of ballot papers that were printed.

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

A “mock battle of ballots” was conducted in the two constituencies where voters had to choose from among 32 candidates, 16 in each, across 36 polling stations (18 in each).

“Except for a few flaws, the whole exercise has been satisfactory,” J.D. Suchiang, the returning officer and also the subdivisional officer (civil) of Sohra said.

Election Commission secretary Anuj Jaipuriar said: “Apart from a few technical errors during polling, which can always be improved upon, the VVPAT was flawless. The people whom I had interacted with expressed satisfaction over the new system and a majority of them prefer the “closed printer technique”.

Yesterday, the commission used both the closed printer and the opened printer to ascertain which of the two was preferable.

In the case of a closed printer, a voter, after pressing a button against a particular candidate, can see the ballot paper for at least five seconds where the serial number, symbol and name of the candidate is printed before disappearing into a sealed box. As far as the opened printer is concerned, a voter can take the printed ballot paper out before depositing it in a box.

Jaipuriar also said that the commission would take a call on VVPAT after consultations with different stakeholders and on examining the feedback received from different quarters including yesterday’s voters.

D.K. Sharma, a professor of IIT Bombay and who is also a member of the expert committee appointed by the commission to oversee the functioning of the VVPAT, said the add-on printers to the EVM were satisfactory and that most people preferred the closed system.

While 7,676 out of 9,444 voters turned out to cast their ballot in Shella constituency yesterday, the turnout in Sohra was 7,982 out of 10,726 voters.

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