Simplified: The difference between EVM and VVPAT
In April 2017, after allegations of Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) tampering, 16 political parties had appealed to the Election Commission (EC) to reintroduce ballot papers in elections. Though the EC noted their complaint, the idea of reintroducing the archaic ballot papers seemed illogical. Instead, Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) were introduced to shun their grievances. Here's the entire story of EVM and VVPAT.
What is EVM and why are they used?
EVM is a voting machine, used in general and state elections, that allows everyone to cast their votes without revealing their identity. Following innumerable complaints of booth capturing, the EC had switched from the obsolete ballot system to electronic voting machines. The first use of EVM was during the 1982 Kerala Assembly elections, before which only ballot papers were used for voting.
Paper ballots still prevalent
Notably, many civic polls are still conducted using paper ballots. But, the fallacy of democratic polling using ballot papers is evident from countless reports of violence and booth capturing in the recently held West Bengal municipal elections.
Now, how does an EVM function?
An EVM has two parts: control unit and balloting unit. The control unit, known as the 'brain' of the EVM is kept with the Election Commission-appointed polling officer, who turns it on by pressing the 'ballot' button. The balloting unit is kept in the voting compartment. Citizens cast their votes by pressing a button against the name and party symbol of their candidate.
But, what is VVPAT and how is it different?
VVPAT machine is not a separate voting system, as often misunderstood. It is only an extended feature of EVM. VVPAT is attached to the EVM. Once a voter presses a button on the EVM, VVPAT prints the details on a paper slip. The slip contains the name of the candidate and his party, through which a citizen can verify his/her vote.
First use of VVPAT and EVM together
VVPATs and EVMs were used together for the first time during the Maharashtra Assembly elections in October 2014. As an experiment, their application was limited to only 13 constituencies. The decision to operate VVPAT with EVM was pushed by a directive of the Supreme Court in 2013 when the court had asked the EC to introduce paper trails during 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
EVMs with VVPAT ensure the accuracy of the voting: SC
"EVMs with VVPAT system ensure the accuracy of the voting system. With an intent to have the fullest transparency, it is necessary to set EVMs with VVPAT system because (a) vote is nothing but an act of expression which has immense importance in a democratic system," Supreme Court had said.
Finally, what about 2019 Lok Sabha Elections?
As informed by former Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, the 2019 general elections will witness the use of new electronic machines which will print a paper receipt after every vote, similar to what VVPATs and EVMs do together. The move comes after the Supreme Court ordered the Election Commission to use upgraded machines for 2019 elections.