Election Commissioner Says “Paper trail to be used for all future elections”

Zaidi said the EC will evolve an appropriate framework for subjecting VVPAT slips of EVMs up to a certain percentage to counting.

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NEW DELHI: In the midst of a raging debate on the reliability of electronic voting machines (EVMs), a majority of political parties that attended the Election Commission’s all-party meeting on Friday supported the use of electronic machines though they called for paper trails and more safeguards.

The parties demanded EVMs with voter verifiable paper audit trails (VVPAT) and more scrutiny of election and post-election processes.

Just a handful of parties, like BSP, the first to slam EVMs after the UP assembly poll results, RJD, Trinamool Congress and Tamil Nadu-based PMK demanded a return to the ballot paper system.

The Aam Aadmi Party, which had held a “demonstration” in the Delhi assembly to show the alleged tampering of EVMs earlier this week, called for a “hackathon” with machines used in the recent assembly polls in five states. However, it backed the use of VVPATs.

On his part, chief election commissioner Nasim Zaidi announced that EC would mandatorily use VVPATs in all future polls. He also said there would be counting of a certain chunk of paper slips.

Zaidi said EC will hold a challenge and offer an opportunity to political parties to demonstrate EVMs used in the recently concluded assembly polls were or can be tampered with under laid-down technical and administrative safeguards.

At the meeting, being held in view of BSP, Congress, AAP, SP, TMC and RJD and some other political parties challenging the accuracy of EVMs and even claiming that they were tweaked to favour BJP, Zaidi said the EC will remain neutral and be equidistant from all political parties as it has no favourites.

Most parties did, however, seek a review and strengthening of security features that EC in a detailed presentation said makes the machine secure and tamper-proof.

CPM even called for an independent vetting of these claims.EC sources said the final percentage will be worked out so as to keep a balance between offering more transparency to the voter and ensuring counting remains speedy.On queries raised by some parties about alleged EVM manipulation in the Bhind and Dholpurbypolls, Zaidi reiterated that “baseless perceptions” were generated and there is no case of biased vote results.

Suggestions that came up at the meeting ranged from parties like CPI and NC seeking more time for viewing the VVPAT slip before it falls into the printer box to mandatory counting of votes in a given percentage of polling booths in every constituency.

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