EVMs Give Extra Votes to BJP’s Lotus During Mock Polls in Kasaragod 2024

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During a mock poll held in Kerala’s Kasaragod on Wednesday, April 17, three VVPAT (Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail) machines malfunctioned by printing an additional slip each displaying the lotus symbol of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). This incident occurred a day after the Supreme Court reaffirmed the accuracy of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) barring any wrongful human interference. Both the Congress and CPI(M) have raised concerns about this malfunction, urging Election Commission officials to investigate the issue and replace the faulty machines.

EVMs VVPAT Machines

In this scenario, the VVPAT machines had the BJP symbol positioned as the topmost option. Even during a subsequent round of mock polling, these same three flawed VVPAT machines continued to produce extra slips bearing the lotus symbol. The issue was only resolved during the third round of polling, as reported by Nasar Cherkalam, the election agent of Congress candidate Rajmohan Unnithan.

The EVMs deployed at the Kasaragod government college contained the names of 10 candidates, including the option for None of The Above (NOTA). Advocate BM Jamal, the chief election agent of Rajmohan Unnithan, explained that during the initialization of the machines, three out of 10 VVPAT machines generated ‘test prints’. Remarkably, all these test prints prominently displayed the BJP’s lotus symbol with the disclaimer “not to be counted” in small letters at the top.

VVPAT, an integral component connected to the EVM, records votes cast by individuals, leaving a paper trail. Although these slips are typically not handed to voters, during mock polls, they are printed and personally verified by agents. Despite the additional slips for the BJP being marginally larger and marked with a warning, complainants argue that there remains a risk of these slips being mistakenly counted during real elections.

The production of these test slips, particularly with the BJP’s symbol, raised questions about the reliability of the VVPAT machines. Jamal emphasized the need for clarity on why such slips were generated and expressed concerns about potential errors during actual elections.

In India, VVPAT machines are manufactured by two public sector undertakings (PSUs) – Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) and the Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL). However, during the mock poll in Kasargod, engineers from these PSUs were notably absent, leaving election officials without technical support to address the issue.

The lack of personnel with technical expertise to explain or rectify such errors has contributed to confusion among stakeholders. Moreover, the incident underscores the importance of transparency and accountability in the electoral process.

In response to the incident, booth agents of Congress and CPI(M) candidates raised a complaint with the district collector, who also serves as the District Election Officer. Nasar Cherkalam highlighted the discrepancy between the number of candidates listed in the EVM and the excess slips generated by the VVPAT machines, emphasizing the potential complications during the vote-counting process.

Several petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court advocating for the verification of all VVPAT slips during elections to ensure transparency. Notable petitioners include the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and former IAS officer MG Devasahayam. Despite earlier mandates by the Election Commission of India (ECI) to count VVPAT slips from only one polling station per constituency, recent court rulings have pushed for increased cross-verification to uphold the integrity of the electoral process.

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