The Citizens’ Commission on Elections (CCE), a body of eminent persons with domain knowledge to delve into critical aspects related to elections, has recommended that the voting system be subjected to an independent review and the integrity of the election should be subjected to an independent audit with the findings made public.
The CCE was constituted in March 2020 to draw upon expert advice and come up with suggestions to ensure that elections were free and fair.
The CCE comprises former Supreme Court judge Madan Lokur as its chairman; retired IAS officer and former CIC and vice-chairman of CCE Wajahat Habibullah; former judge of the Madras High Court Hari Paranthaman; economist Arun Kumar; civil society activist Dr. John Dayal; senior journalist Pamela Philipose; IIT-Delhi professor Dr. Subhashis Banerjee; retired IAS officer Sundar Burra and former IAS officer and coordinator M.G. Devasahayam.
In its interim report, the CCE recommended that the VVPAT system be redesigned to make it fully voter-verified.
“The voter should be able to approve the VVPAT printout before the vote is cast, and be able to cancel if there is an error. The integrity of the VVPAT slips and the EVMs during the entire time after polling and before counting and auditing must be ensured in a manner that is verifiable by all (and especially the candidates). There should be no trust requirement on the custody chain,” the report said.
The CCE said EVMs cannot be assumed to be tamper-proof and the voting system should be redesigned to be software- and hardware-independent in order to be verifiable.
“The decision-making processes within the EC need to be much more logical, rigorous and principled than what it was for the 2019 parliamentary elections,” it said.
The committee demanded a stringent audit of the vote count before the results are declared.
The audit should not be based on ad hoc methods but by counting a statistically significant sample of the VVPAT slips according to rigorous and well-established statistical audit techniques.
“The audit may in some cases — depending on the margin of victory — require a full manual counting of VVPAT slips,” it said.
Among the other recommendations of the CCE was that a law was needed to decide on what should be done if the audits revealed a problem.