EC for new machine to enhance voter secrecy

The Election Commission wants to use a new machine which prevents disclosure of voting pattern during counting to enhance voter secrecy and has received the backing of the Law Commission, but the government is yet to take a final call on the issue.

The EC has approached the Law Ministry with a proposal to introduce ‘Totaliser’ machine for counting of votes.

The poll panel is of the view that by use of Totaliser, a further level of secrecy in voting and the mixing of votes at the time of counting will be achieved, which will prevent the disclosure of pattern of voting at a particular polling station.

The Law Ministry is the administrative ministry for the poll body.

But the government has not taken a considered view on introduction of the machine. It told the Supreme Court recently that the views of the Law Commission would be sought on the use of Totaliser for counting of votes.

The law panel, in its report on electoral reforms submitted to the government last month has supported the use of the new machine.

It has recommended amendment to the Conduct of Election Rules to give EC powers to use Totaliser for mixing of votes where it apprehends intimidation and victimisation of electors in any constituency.

The rationale behind EC’s proposal was that the current system revealed the voting trends in each polling station, thus leaving the voters in that vicinity open to harassment, intimidation and post-election victimisation.

“Prior to the introduction of EVMs, ballot papers could be mixed, wherever it was considered absolutely necessary under the Conduct of Election Rules in light of apprehended intimidation and victimisation of electors. However, EVMs do not permit this,” the law panel noted in its report.

The Law Commission said Totaliser would also help in situations such as witnessed in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections in Hoshangabad, where an EVM at the Mokalvada polling station in Sohagpur area malfunctioned just minutes before voting was to conclude at 6 pm.

A lone voter, who arrived at the polling station at 5:50 p.m. then had to cast his vote in a newly installed EVM.

The EC issued a clarification that this single vote had to be counted, even if it compromised on the voter’s secrecy and instead stated that one way of dealing with such situations in future is the introduction of the new machine to count the votes recorded on several EVMs contemporaneously.

It was in 2008, that the EC had first approached the Law Ministry fo the use of Totaliser. EC said the results of votes polled in a group of 14 EVMs (hence, in 14 polling stations) would be calculated and announced together, in a change from the current practice of counting votes by each polling station.

Although EC’s proposal was referred to a Parliamentary Committee in 2009, no action was taken. In August 2014, the EC approached the Law Ministry on this issue again. In January this year, the Supreme Court recorded that government has sought the view of the law panel on the use of such machines.

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Printable version | Oct 26, 2021 7:44:31 PM |

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