In the wake of doubts raised on the integrity of Electronic Voting Machines and claims made that the button assigned to a certain party on the machine has led to votes being polled for another in recent elections, the Election Commission today said that the serial numbers of party candidates on the EVMs are not pre-determined, and not known till the time the candidates are set.
The Commission today came out with an elaborate description of measures taken to ensure the safety and integrity of EVMs. It said the machines and VVPATs are randomised twice while being allocated to an Assembly and then to a polling booth, ruling out any fixed allocation. The list of the randomised EVMs and VVPATs are shared with political parties and candidates.
During the process of candidate setting on the EVMs, the ballot paper is fixed on the machine. The sequence of contesting candidates are placed alphabetically on the ballot paper, first listed are the national and state parties, followed by other registered state parties followed by independents and NOTA.
Thus, the sequence in which the candidates appear on the BU (balloting unit) is contingent on the names of the candidates and their party affiliation and cannot be ascertained beforehand, the Commission said.
“It is therefore clear that the serial number of any political party candidate is not fixed or pre-determined in all the constituencies of the state. Hence, till candidate setting, no one, not even the returning officer, district officer, chief electoral officer or the commission could know which button on which Balloting Unit will be assigned to which candidate,” said Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora, as he announced the poll dates for Assembly elections in Maharashtra and Haryana.
The Commission said the EVMs and VVPATs are stored at district headquarters, and not even the EC can open the EVM warehouse without involving political parties and candidates. The warehouses will be under 24x7 protection of armed police and CCTV surveillance, from the start of the first level checking of the machines till the completion of the election process.
Following the polls, the EVMs will be stored in strong rooms in a double lock system in the presence of candidates or their representatives on video.
“Candidates or their representatives may also camp in front of the strong room. These strong rooms are guarded 24x7 in multi-layers, with CCTV facilities,” Arora said.
As in the Lok Sabha elections, in accordance with the orders of the Supreme Court, the Commission will carry out matching with VVPAT slips of five randomly selected polling stations in each Assembly constituency. The five machines will be chosen through a draw of a lot in the presence of all candidates.
In Maharashtra, 1.8 lakh EVMs and 1.39 lakh VVPATs will be deployed, while in Haryana, 38,000 EVMs and 27000 VVPATs will be used.