Reforms needed in the voting process

GS Paper II

News Excerpt:

The Supreme Court has decided to hear petitions seeking 100% cross-verification of the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) slips with the vote count as per Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs).

Emergence of EVMs and VVPAT:

  • In the first two general elections of 1952 and 1957, each candidate had a separate box with their election symbol. Voters had to drop a blank ballot paper into the box of the candidate they wanted to vote for.
  • From the third election, ballot papers with the names of candidates and their symbols were introduced, and voters put a stamp on the candidate of their choice.
  • The Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) was introduced on a trial basis in 1982 in the assembly constituency of Paravur in Kerala. They were deployed in all booths during the assembly elections of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Puducherry and West Bengal in 2001.
    • The Supreme Court has upheld the validity of using EVMs in elections in various judgments.
  • In the 2004 general elections to the Lok Sabha, EVMs were used in all 543 constituencies.
    • In Subramanian Swamy versus Election Commission of India (2013), the Supreme Court ruled that a paper trail is an indispensable requirement for free and fair elections.
  • The 2019 elections had EVMs backed with 100% VVPAT in all constituencies.

Significance of EVMs:

  • The EVM has virtually eradicated booth capturing by limiting the rate of vote casting to four votes a minute, thus significantly increasing the time required to stuff false votes.
  • EVMs have eliminated invalid votes, which were a bane of paper ballots and a point of contention during the counting process.
  • Considering the size of our electorate, which is close to one billion, the use of EVMs is eco-friendly as it reduces the consumption of paper.
  • It provides administrative convenience for the polling officers on the day of the poll and has made the counting process faster and error-free.

Mechanisms to uphold the integrity of EVM and VVPAT process:

  • Random allocation of EVMs to booths before polls.
  • Conduct a mock poll to display the correctness of EVMs and VVPAT before the commencement of the actual poll.
  • The serial number of EVMs and the total votes polled were shared with candidates' agents to verify the same at the time of vote counting.

Doubts and concerns raised about the functioning of EVMs:

  • The most repeated allegation is that EVMs are susceptible to hacking as an electronic device.
    • However, the ECI has time and again clarified that it is a standalone device like a calculator with no connectivity to any external device and hence free from any kind of external hack.
  • The sample size for matching the EVM count with VVPAT slips is five per assembly constituency/segment. This is not based on any scientific criteria and may fail to detect defective EVMs during counting.
  • The present process also allows various parties to identify booth-wise polling behaviour, which can result in profiling and intimidation.

Global practices:

  • Many Western democracies continue to use paper ballots for their elections. After trials in the last two decades, countries like England, France, the Netherlands, and the U.S. have discontinued using EVMs for national or federal elections.
  • In 2009, the German Supreme Court declared the use of EVMs in elections unconstitutional.
  • Some countries like Brazil use EVMs for their elections.
  • Among neighbours, Pakistan does not use EVMs. Bangladesh experimented in a few constituencies in 2018 but reverted to paper ballots for the general elections in 2024.

Way forward:

  • The 100% use of VVPAT has enabled the voters to verify that their votes are ‘recorded as cast’. However, a few additional steps must be adopted to make the entire process more robust and ensure that the votes are ‘counted as recorded’.
  • A 100% match of EVM count with VVPAT slips would be unscientific and cumbersome. As experts suggest, the sample for matching EVM count and VVPAT slips should be decided scientifically by dividing each state into large regions.
  • In case of even a single error, the VVPAT slips should be counted fully for the concerned region and form the basis for results. This would instil a statistically significant confidence in the counting process.
  • Further, in order to provide a degree of cover for voters at the booth level, ‘totaliser’ machines can be introduced that would aggregate votes in 15-20 EVMs before revealing the candidate-wise count.


While the introduction of EVMs and VVPAT systems has enhanced the electoral process, addressing concerns and implementing improvements is imperative for maintaining trust. Scientifically sound methods for cross-verification and the introduction of "totalizer" machines could bolster the integrity and transparency of elections, ensuring that votes are accurately recorded and counted.

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