- Opposition says voting machines currently in use can be gamed
- Election Commission calls all-party session on May 12
- After this, Commission will hold 10-day hackathon: sources
Sources in the Election Commission said a few weeks ago that the conferral with political representatives would be followed by a 10-day hackathon which would allow techies and others the chance to prove that electronic voting machines or EVMs can be manipulated. The Commission maintains they can't.
It is the ruling BJP's continuing winning streak that has animated other parties into claiming that the results of recent elections are unfair. As evidence, they offered reports of a March demonstration of a voting machine in Madhya Pradesh, supervised by election officials, which appeared to show votes racking up for the BJP irrespective of what candidate was chosen. However, the Commission said the facts were misrepresented and that the machine did not malfunction.
It was Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal who initiated the debate on voting machines by stating that his Aam Aadmi Party's defeat in Punjab was calibrated entirely by malpractices. He accused the Commission, an autonomous and immensely powerful body, of collaborating with the BJP. The Congress, which won Punjab, excluded the state from its list of problematic electoral results. After collating 16 other parties, the party complained to President Pranab Mukherjee about voting machines, and sought a return to ballot paper.
Late last month, under pressure from the Supreme Court, the centre agreed to give the Commission the 3,000 crores it needs to organise new voting machines that have the additional security feature of a printed receipt. VVPATs- verifiable voter paper audit trails- provide an instant confirmation of the vote cast through a slip of paper that is visible to the voter before it drops into a sealed box. The general election in 2019 will be run entirely with these VVPATs.
Mr Kejriwal's fixation on voting machines did not serve him well. Last month, after his party lost crucial local elections in Delhi, its home base, leaders urged him not to wish away the blame on voting machines and to focus instead of re-engaging with the public.
However, in Uttarakhand, which, in March, chose the BJP to run it with a huge margin, the High Court has asked for voting machines from seven constituencies to be seized and inspected after losing Congress candidates alleged they had been gamed.