Counting day: VVPAT slips of 930 Gujarat booths to be verified, may delay results by hours

Avinash Nair
The verification of VVPAT paper slips will be done by randomly selecting five polling stations in each Assembly constituency.

The Election Commission will be manually counting VVPAT (Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail) paper slips and matching them with the electronic count of the EVM in over 930 polling booths in Gujarat on May 23. This process, officials say, will delay the declaration of the results of the 26 Lok Sabha seats and four Assembly bypoll seats by at least a couple of hours.

The verification of VVPAT paper slips will be done by randomly selecting five polling stations in each Assembly constituency. It will be taken up after the completion of the last round of counting of votes. The random selection of five polling stations shall be done by a draw of lots by the returning officer in the presence of candidates or their agents and the General Observer appointed by the Commission for that constituency, S Murali Krishna, Chief Electoral Officer of Gujarat, said.

In the randomly selected polling booths, the results from the Control Units will be matched with the VVPAT slips. Apart from the mandatory five polling booths where VVPAT paper slips will be matched with the results of the Control units, the VVPAT slips will also be counted for other reasons, on the day of counting. Voter slips are also counted in polling stations where the Control Unit (of the EVM) fails to display the results due to technical reasons, the official said. Earlier, when faced with such an issue, an engineer was called and a print out of the results was taken. This process has been discontinued.

VVPAT slips will also be counted in polling booths where mock-poll data has not be cleared by the presiding officer on the day of the polls (April 23), the official said. On the day of polling, mock-polls are conducted where 50 votes are cast in the EVM before the actually polling begins. These votes have to be deleted by the presiding officer from the EVM and the VVPAT slips have to be cleared from the VVPAT machine.

Thirdly, on the day of the counting, the returning officer can order counting of VVPAT slips if requested by candidates. The draw to select the five random polling stations will exclude all these polling stations where VVPAT slips have been counted for the other reasons mentioned, the CEO said. The verification of VVPAT paper slips will be done in a VVPAT counting booth specially prepared for this purpose, inside the counting centres. This booth is enclosed by wire mesh just like a bank cashier s cabin so that no VVPAT paper slip can be accessed by any unauthorised person.

In case of a mismatch between the electronic count of the Control Units and the manual count of the VVPAT slips, a recounting of slips of that particular EVM is conducted. If the discrepancy persists, then the count of VVPAT paper slips prevails. The entire counting process will be videographed.

The counting will be held in 28 locations in Gujarat.