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Explainer: All you need to know about vote counting

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New Delhi, May 23: India completed its seven-phased Lok Sabha elections on Sunday. The counting of votes is scheduled to begin on Thursday at 8 AM.

Whenever elections come then voters often observe that the opposition political parties give thrust to matching the results of the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) with that of the Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) system.

A security jawan guards at a counting centre, prepared for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, in Mumbai

The VVPAT system generates a printed paper slip bearing the name and election symbol of the candidate whom the voter voted.

The Supreme Court on April 08, 2019 instructed the ECI that printed VVPAT slips from randomly selected five polling stations in each assembly segment of a parliamentary constituency should be matched with EVMs.

Amidst a hue and cry, how EC secured India's EVMs

The apex court had issued directions on a plea filed by 21 Opposition parties led by Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu.

On May 7, the apex court had dismissed a review plea by the 21 Opposition parties to review its April judgment. The plea demanded matching of 50% EVM results with the VVPAT results.

On May 21, the Supreme Court again dismissed a writ petition seeking 100% random physical counting of EVM-VVPAT on May 23.

How is EVM-VVPAT Matching Done?

The VVPAT system was added to EVMs in 2013 to increase transparency and improve voter confidence in the system.

As per the directions of the Supreme Court, the Election Commission of India (ECI) will match printed VVPAT slips from randomly selected five polling stations in each assembly segment of a parliamentary constituency with EVMs.

The verification of VVPAT paper slips is conducted inside a secured VVPAT Counting Booth in the counting hall with access to authorised personnel only. Any counting table in the hall can be converted into VVPAT Counting Booth after completing EVM vote counting.

The matching process will be done under the personal supervision of the Returning Officer (RO) and Assistant Returning Officer (ARO).

The ECI has decided that the counting of five VVPATs will be done sequentially. The RO can declare the final result for the constituency after the VVPAT matching process has been completed.

Should VVPATs be counted before EVM votes?

If there is a discrepancy between the VVPAT count and the EVM results then the VVPAT count will be taken as final.

However, the ECI has not clarified whether there would be any further action if there is a discrepancy in the counts of one of the five VVPATs.

Here are other important points of vote counting process:

  • In the era of EVMs, the ballot votes still have an upper hand as the counting of votes begins with Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballots (ETPB) and Postal Ballots (PB). Counting of EVMs can start 30 minutes after the commencement of PB counting, even if all PBs have not been counted.
  • Ideally counting of votes for a constituency should be done at one place. However, each Parliamentary Constituency has multiple assembly segments. Therefore, counting takes place at different locations for various assembly segments under the direct supervision of an ARO.
  • In each round of counting, votes from 14 EVMs are counted. At the end of each round of counting, the results from those 14 EVMs are declared.
  • In case of simultaneous parliamentary and assembly elections, the first seven tables are used for counting votes for assembly elections, and the rest seven for parliamentary elections.

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