Random checks of VVPAT or voter paper trail slips to verify whether votes have been recorded accurately will be increased across the country, the Election Commission said today after the Supreme Court ordered a "high degree of accuracy" in the national election starting Thursday. The increase may delay results by around an hour, said election officials.
The Election Commission had argued that results of the election could be delayed by five days if 50 per cent of VVPATs in every assembly segment is counted. The Supreme Court asked the poll body to increase the number of VVPAT machines from one to just five, so the delay will be marginal, sources said.
"We will make all out efforts to operationalise and implement the directions of the Supreme Court with immediate effect," the Election Commission said.
VVPATs are being used for the first time in any Lok Sabha election; they have till now been used in some parliamentary and assembly bypolls.
After votes are cast, the polling station where VVPAT slips are matched with vote machine results is decided by a draw of lots in the presence of candidates. Today's Supreme Court order means that five polling stations, instead of one, will be picked for the random matching of slips.
The Supreme Court was hearing a petition by leaders of 21 opposition parties who wanted the number of VVPATs to be increased to 50 per cent in every assembly segment. Allegations of EVM or electronic voting machine tampering have been the reason for constant fights among parties in election season.
The Election Commission said that based on inputs from the Indian Statistical Institute, a sample survey of 479 assembly segments would generate 99.99 per cent accuracy.
The poll body had also flagged infrastructure and workforce constraints; it said it needs a minimum team of three officers to count VVPATs.
The poll body at present matches VVPAT slips of 4,125 EVMs under the "one EVM per assembly segment" guideline. Following the court order, the Election Commission will have to count the VVPAT slips of five times as many machines in each constituency, or that of 20,625 EVMs.
The Supreme Court also made it clear that it was not casting any doubt on the Election Commission's checks and processes.
"If the number of (VVPAT) machines can be increased to a reasonable number, it would lead to greater satisfaction, so the endeavour of the court is to find a viable number of VVPATs," a bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna said.
The results of the seven-phase Lok Sabha elections starting Thursday will be out on May 23.
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