Maharashtra to reconsider use of EVMs alone in state polls

Experts and political parties have stated that it will help reinstate and retain people’s trust in democratic processes.

Credit : Free Press Journal

Maharashtra Legislative Assembly Speaker Nana Patole has asked the State Cabinet to explore the option of making paper ballots available for voting along with electronic voting machines (EVMs) in State Assembly as well as local body elections. The suggestion was made with reference to a petition filed by Pradeep Uke from Nagpur in this regard. Experts and political parties have welcomed this suggestion, stating that it will help reinstate and retain people’s trust in democratic processes.

The matter was discussed at a meeting held on February 2, in presence of state Medical Education Minister Amit Deshmukh, MLC Abhijit Wanjarri, Maharashtra Chief Electoral Officer Baldev Singh among others. Speaking for the petitioner, Adv. Satish Uke said that it is the right of the voters to have the option to choose between paper ballots or EVM, and they are the ones who should decide where to put their trust. "Cabinet should consider what the people think," Uke said. The Indian Constitution has granted the right to bring in laws pertaining to the electoral process to the states.

The authenticity of the EVMs has been questioned by people as well as political parties in almost every election. “The electoral process must be transparent, and introduction of paper ballots along with EVMs will ensure that transparency,” says Satish Gore, Maharashtra Secretary of Indian National Youth Congress. He adds, “People’s trust in democracy will remain intact only if they believe in the electoral process. EVMs have been scrutinised by many in the past, raising people’s suspicions towards the method. That’s why it has become necessary to introduce an alternative to the people. In fact, I would say that this law should be made and implemented in the entire country.

Right now, what we need is public auditability for votes, digital literacy activist Anupam Saraph said while talking to Indie Journal. “Presently, we have the Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) for voters to verify if their votes have been cast accurately. However, there is no option for the voters to stamp that the vote that has been cast is accurate. Similarly, even if the voters point out that their vote has come out inaccurate, there is no way for the voters or the political parties to change that. The voters should have an option to get the receipt of the vote, and mark on it that the vote displayed is correct,” Saraph said.

Speaking about the limitations of EVMs, Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) Mukund Kirdat told Indie Journal, “Even if the probability of a technical glitch in the EVMs is minor, it still exists. And even if one vote has been cast wrongly, it is enough to lose people’s trust. Also, there is no way to verify whether there are any discrepancies in the EVMs or not. On this backdrop, giving people an option is certainly a welcome move.”

Gore further suggested that if such a law is to be made, it could be implemented in any of the local body elections that take place next year, and it could be a litmus test for how people respond to it. “It would be very much possible to implement, even on a larger scale. That is how the elections took place earlier. Several countries like the USA, England, France, etc. have also been using paper ballots instead of EVMs,” Gore said.

Stating that no electronic device is tamper-proof, Saraph added that it’s therefore necessary to have a paper trail. He also stated that before making the law, the Maharashtra Government must form a committee of experts in the field as well as common people, and involve them in the process.