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‘One more official in each booth will cut VVPAT delay’

Opposition parties file rejoinder to EC in Supreme Court

April 07, 2019 10:31 pm | Updated 10:32 pm IST - NEW DELHI

In poll mode: State Election Commission officials provide training on how to operate EVMs and VVPATs.

In poll mode: State Election Commission officials provide training on how to operate EVMs and VVPATs.

Deployment of one more official and an extra worktable in each polling booth will ‘substantially reduce’ the 5.2-day delay a proposed 50% VVPAT verification will cause in vote-counting in the Lok Sabha elections, Opposition parties countered the Election Commission of India (ECI) in the Supreme Court.

EC’s counter

The ECI had objected to the Opposition’s idea of 50% random physical verification of VVPAT slips in each Assembly segment of a Parliamentary constituency or Assembly constituency in order to ensure free and fair General Elections in 2019, the first phase of which commences on April 11.

The poll body had told the apex court that such an increase would create an ‘insurmountable difficulty’ in the election process. It would lead to exactly 5.2 days of delay in vote-counting.

The Opposition’s rejoinder presented a counter-calculation under-cutting the poll body’s math.

“If the delay of 5.2 days is to be balanced with the integrity of electoral process, the balance will certainly tilt towards the latter... the delay of 5.2 days will occur only if the ECI chooses not to increase its present workforce at all, not even by one person.

“The delay will be substantially reduced if workforce is increased by even one person,” the Opposition submitted in its rejoinder.

Putting one more person on the job of verifying VVPAT slips in each of the 50% polling booths in a constituency would reduce the period of vote-counting from 5.2 days to 2.6 days.The rejoinder is accompanied by a sworn affidavit from Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu and all the other leaders.

“Sensitising one or more officials and providing one or more worktables for them is not an ‘insurmountable difficulty’ for the ECI by any stretch of imagination,” the Opposition parties argued.

A Bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi is scheduled to hear the case on April 8.

The Opposition said the ECI’s estimate of six days (or 5.2 days to be exact) was based on the “assumption that even if the number of EVMs to be verified was increased, only one person would count all those increased numbers of EVMs, one after the other”.

So, ECI has calculated that if VVPAT verification in one polling booth requires one hour, 125 booths (50% polling booths) would need 125 hours.

“It is quite obvious that if the number of EVMs to be verified is to be increased, the number of people deployed to count VVPAT slips will also have to be increased. The same person cannot count VVPAT slips of all the EVMs one after the other, as presumed by the ECI,” the Opposition said.

An extra person pitching in in each of the 50% polling booths to verify the VVPAT slips would reduce vote-counting time from 5.2 days to 2.6 days. If the decision, otherwise, is taken to verify VVPATs in 33% booths (83 booths), one more official on the job would reduce the vote-counting time from 3.5 days to 1.8 days. Even if the VVPAT verification margin is further reduced to 25% voting booths (63 booths) in each constituency, an addition of one official in each of these booths would shorten the vote-counting time from 2.64 days to 1.31 days, the Opposition calculated.

The Opposition said 50% VVPAT verification is necessary to instill public confidence in the integrity of electoral process.

ECI has conveyed its belief in the secure design of the EVM-VVPATs, the elaborate procedural safeguards adopted for their usage, and finally, the fact that there have been zero errors in sample verifications so far.

But the Opposition said EVMs were not “completely defectless”.

The Opposition said the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) report of March 22, which the ECI was relying on to resist the 50% verification, was “fundamentally erroneous”.

The report is “predicated on a flawed assumption, that is, the parliamentary elections conducted in 543 constituencies all over India and spread over a six-week period is a ‘single homogeneous event’”.

“Election to each of the 543 constituencies is a separate and distinct event. Each Assembly Constituency or segment of 500 to 1000 booths is treated as a separate unit, the required sample size will still be in the range of 300-400, which translates to an average of 50%... the ISI report assumes EVMs are defectless,” the Opposition said.

It said the ISI report is like constructing a fire-resistant building under the assumption that fire will never occur in there.

The rejoinder is accompanied by an affidavit sworn by Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu for him and all the other leaders.

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