The Election Commission (EC) on Friday, April 8, gave a green signal to the EVM and VVPAT machines that were used during a demonstration exercise at Bhind in Madhya Pradesh last week. The Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) of Andhra Pradesh, Bhanwar Lal, conducted a probe and found no proof of tampering in the EVM and the paper audit trail that was used on March 31.
The EC said in a statement that the accuracy of the two machines "is beyond doubt." The EVM that was used in the trial in Bhind had given rise to a controversy after a video surfaced that showed the machine registering votes only for the BJP despite state CEO Saleena Singh having pressed the button for Samajwadi Party. The poll panel immediately sent an inquiry team led by Lal to Bhind even as the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) alleged EVM tampering.
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However, all accusations by AAP have been dismissed in the final report of the inquiry. The data that was recovered from the control unit of the EVM used in Bhind suggested that the poll officer had initially pressed button number three on the ballot unit and then button number four followed by three again and lastly button number one. Every time the buttons were pressed, the paper audit trail dispensed slips with the symbols of 'hand pump', 'lotus', 'hand pump' and 'hand', respectively. The investigation revealed that the VVPAT machine did not dispense slips with the symbol of 'lotus'.
"Therefore, it is clear that on pressing of various buttons on EVMs during the demonstration, corresponding symbols were displayed," the EC's statement read.
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However, the probe did reveal that there was a mistake on the part of the poll officers because they did not delete, from the VVPAT used in Bhind, the names of the candidates who had contested the elections from Uttar Pradesh's Kanpur constituency. The procedure clearly states that poll officers are required to delete the data loaded on the VVPAT, which was sourced from Kanpur, before it is used for the demonstration in Bhind.
"During a demonstration, poll officers use dummy candidates with dummy symbols to test the accuracy of voting and VVPAT machines. However, since the pre-loaded data of Kanpur seat was not deleted from the VVPAT, it dispensed slips with poll symbols of the Kanpur candidates corresponding to the button pressed on the ballot unit of the EVM," an EC official was quoted by the Indian Express as saying.
The EC might fix responsibility with either the District Election Officer or Returning Officer for the mistake by the poll officers, the report stated.
The EC also responded to a complaint by the Congress party over the poll panel's decision to source VVPAT machines from Uttar Pradesh. It said: "Bringing the VVPAT from UP is not in violation of law. As per the law, only the EVMs used in the poll and the VVPAT slips contained in the box are required to be preserved for the period of 45 days in a secured manner for the purpose of election petition, if any. There is no bar on the movement of VVPAT machines... In this case, however, further precaution was taken to move only the reserve VVPATs used as substitutes during poll on which no restriction applies."