By: Konda Vishweshwar Reddy
The Electronic Voting Machines in India were introduced in 1999 and they replaced paper ballots. The advantages were obvious. It reduced certain types of rigging, pole rigging and ballot manipulation. Along with the introduction of electronic voting machines, not only the method of casting vote is changed through technology, but the procedure for counting the votes also was changed. During the days of the paper ballots, all the ballot boxes from the constituency were brought to a counting center and the ballot papers are mixed in front of officials, polling agents and security. Then the counting process is initiated and the constituency wise results are obtained. In case of Electronic Voting Machine, the EVMs from all the booths are brought to a central location and EVM wise results are obtained, this means the results are obtained booth wise and village wise, which was not available during the time of paper ballots.
In the last decade it has been noted that the advent of EVMs actually promotes a highly unethical and illegal practice of using money and muscle to influence voter, defeating the very purpose of electronic voting machines and posses a threat to fair elections and democracy.
The modus operandi is as follows:-
A contesting candidate with money and muscle goes to a village before the polls and offers advance money to the local village leader/leaders and promises double that as balance after the results based on the number of votes polled in that particular village/polling station/ EVM. In most cases if they did not get sufficient number of votes from that Village/EVM, then the leaders are forced to return the money with a stiff interest rate after the election.
This practice is followed in many backward areas by unethical politicians with money and muscle. Further by declaring booth wise and village wise results the very concept of Confidential Ballot gets diluted and compromised since how a particular group of people voted becomes public knowledge. This becomes especially sensitive in many villages which have two polling stations in two different parts of the village. One part of the village where members of certain communities and castes reside and another part of the village where members of other communities and castes may reside.
This can easily be avoided through a change in process of counting and declaring results or through technology where the electronic votes are mixed electronically where the results are yielded. A more simpler method would be a) Bar-coding the EVM instead of writing the name or number of the polling booth, b) Relabeling or Recoding of the EVMs so that during the counting process village wise of booth wise result will not become public knowledge.
We request the Election Commission to declare only Constituency wise result and keep the booth wise results confidential for a period of atleast 2 years to curtail this unethical practice of using money and muscle during the election, taking the advantage of EVMs and Election Commission giving out booth wise results.