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Prelims Syllabus : Polity Mains Syllabus : GS-II Governance, Social Justice and IR

Why in News:

The Election Commission (EC) rejected the demand of Opposition parties for tallying of the Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT)

Background: / What is a VVPAT system?

  • Voter verifiable paper audit trial (VVPAT) is an independent system attached to an EVM that allows the voters to verify that their votes are cast as intended.
  • When a vote is cast, a slip is printed on the VVPAT printer containing the serial number, name and symbol of the candidate voted.
  • This remains visible to you through a transparent window for seven seconds.
  • Thereafter, this printed slip automatically gets cut and falls into a sealed drop box.
  • If there is a need, these printouts can later be counted.

How did the VVPAT system evolve in India?

  • Many political parties expressed their satisfaction with EVMs initially.
  • But some parties requested the Commission to consider introducing VVPATs for further transparency and verifiability of the votes cast.
  • The Commission referred the matter to its technical committee on EVMs to examine and make a recommendation to the Commission.
  • The committee first met with the manufacturers and then with political parties and other civil society members to explore the design requirements of the VVPAT system.
  • In 2011, BEL and ECIL made a prototype of the VVPAT and demonstrated it to the technical committee and the Election Commission.
  • In the same year the Commission conducted simulated elections for the field trial of the VVPAT system in various places including Thiruvananthapuram, Ladakh, Cherrapunji and Jaisalmer.
  • Two years later, the government amended the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961 allowing the Commission to use VVPATs along with EVMs.
  • These were first used in the bye-election for the Noksen Assembly seat in Nagaland in 2013. Thereafter VVPATs have been used in select constituencies in every election to the State Assemblies.
  • They were deployed in eight Parliamentary constituencies during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, VVPATs will be used in all the constituencies.

Why is it important?

  • In the world’s largest democracy, every vote counts and the EVMs and VVPATs try and ensure that the massive election process is in tune with the latest technological advancements. The Election Commission has never doubted the workings of EVMs and their utility in a free and fair electoral process.
  • However, VVPATs add another layer of transparency and reliability to convince voters about the sanctity of EVMs. EVMs and VVPATs also quicken the election process as counting votes on EVMs takes much lesser time than counting paper ballots.
  • The EVMs and VVPATs are also environment-friendly as they use very little paper compared to paper ballots.
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