Voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT)

Date: April 20, 2017

election commission of India EVM

For the very first time in Uttar Pradesh, a voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) was introduced by the Election Commission in polling booths in Allahabad district for the  assembly polls.

 

In this article we shall understand

 

  • Basics of VVPAT
  • Timeline of VVPAT
  • Benefit
  • concern

 

What is  VVPAT?

 

A Voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) unit provides feedback to voters using EVMs for voting. The VVPAT functions as an independent verification system for EVMs and allows voters to verify that their votes are cast as intended. It also serves as an additional barrier to changing or destroying votes

 

Timeline leading to the use of VVPAT in India:

 

The idea of an additional layer of transparency for the satisfaction of voters in the form of a ‘voter verifiable paper trail’ was suggested by the political parties in a meeting taken by the ECI on 4th October, 2010. Accordingly, introduction of the VVPAT was facilitated by amending the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961.   Since then, these units are being deployed in elections in select Assembly and Parliamentary Constituencies. 

 

2010: During a meeting with the EC, political parties suggested the use of VVPAT to provide an additional layer of transparency to the satisfaction of voters.

 

2011: On the recommendation of a Technical Experts Committee, a field trial was conducted in Thiruvananthapuram, Delhi, Jaisalmer, Cherapunjee and Leh in the presence and participation of all stakeholders including general voters, national and state political parties, civil society organisations, and media.

 

2013: The Technical Expert Committee approved the final design of the VVPAT units. This was preceded by a second field trial of prototype VVPAT system in Delhi, Thiruvananthapuram, Leh, Jaisalmer and Cherapunjee in July-August, 2012.

 

September  2013: For the first time, VVPAT with EVMs was used for the Noksen Assembly seat in Tuensang district of Nagaland.

 

October 2013: In the case of Subramanian Swamy vs Election Commission of India (ECI), the Supreme Court held that VVPAT is “indispensable for free and fair elections” and directed the ECI to equip EVMs with VVPAT systems. The apex court directed the EC to introduce EVMs in a phased manner for the next General Elections in 2014, saying it would ensure free and fair polls. SC also directed the Centre to provide financial assistance for introducing VVPAT system.

 

In accordance with the SC order, the EC ordered VVPAT systems to be used in the New Delhi assembly of the Delhi assembly elections.

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How does VVPAT work?

VVPAT device functions like a printer to be attached to the ballot unit and kept inside the voting compartment. When the voter presses the button against the name of the candidate of his choice on the Ballot Unit, the VVPAT unit generates a paper slip, called Ballot Slip.  This paper slip contains the name, serial number and symbol of the chosen candidate.  The voter can see this slip through a screened window where it stays for seven seconds, and then it automatically gets cut and falls down into a sealed drop box. In this process, the slip will not go into the hands of the voter nor will others be able to see it.

 

Benefit of VVPAT

 

The use of VVPAT gives the voter an opportunity to challenge her/his vote on the basis of the paper receipt for the first time. As per a new rule, the booth presiding officer has to record the dissent of the vote, which needs to be taken into account at the time of counting.

 

Conern:

 

  • Video of voter behavior during an actual election revealed that most voters do not "verify" their choices by reading the VVPAT.
  • A manual VVPAT recount/audit is labor-intensive and expensive, and likely unaffordable to most candidates seeking it.
  • And while VVPAT is designed to serve as a check on DRE (Direct Recording Electronic) vote recorders, it relies on the same proprietary programming and electronics to produce the audit trail.
  • Other hurdles in the implementation of paper audit trails include the performance and authority of the audit.
  • Paper audit systems increase the cost of electronic voting systems, can be difficult to implement, often require specialized external hardware, and can be difficult to use.