The Election Commission of India, which currently matches the votes cast in one polling booth in every assembly constituency with paper slips in the Voter Verifiable Paper Trail (VVPAT) units, is still not sure of increasing the number to a statistically valid level.
There have been demands from both political parties as well as the civil society for matching the votes cast through EVM machines with VVPAT slips in booths ranging from 10% to 50%. This, it has been argued, would increase voter confidence and make the electoral process more transparent.
It has also been argued that with each Lok Sabha constituency covering six or more assembly constituencies, the number of booths is often more than 1,200. To match votes in just six of them or 0.5 per cent of the booths make little or no sense.
But the Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora told the media on Sunday, “The Election Commission expects the report from the committee of Indian Statistical Institute experts, constituted to determine a feasible threshold, to come in any time, certainly before the poll process is over. It will then discuss the view and take a view.”
The explanation stretches the Commission’s credibility because Statisticians would require less than 24 hours to determine the acceptable statistical threshold, given the size of the electorate, number of booths and the number of EVM machines.
With the Commission neither disclosing the names of the experts nor revealing when it was constituted or the time-frame given to the committee, it is impossible to ascertain the reasons for the delay. But experts speaking on condition of anonymity say that the Commission may not be keen to change the existing pattern in 2019.
It is worth recalling that VVPATS were ordered by the Supreme Court of India in 2013. The court reiterated its direction in 2016 but it was not before April, 2017 that the Union cabinet approved the expenditure on buying 1.6 million VVPAT units.