7% VVPAT machines fail test in Madhya Pradesh; Congress cries foul

Authorities say the figure is not alarming and the faulty machines would be replaced

Bhopal: The rate of failure of Voter-Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines supplied to Madhya Pradesh by the Election Commission of India (ECI) has been found to be around 7 per cent. The Opposition Congress has said that this fact further strengthens the doubts about the efficacy of the electronic voting machines (EVMs) and VVPATs. The party has already approached the Supreme Court, seeking fresh guidelines for VVPATs and EVMs.

The tests conducted by the state election authorities, between July and August this year, have revealed that failure rate of VVPATs is around 7.68 per cent while the error rate of control units has been pegged at 1.2 per cent. The ballot units are relatively better placed, with error rate estimated at less than 1 per cent.

First-level checks

The error rate of the election equipment was assessed after first-level checks (FLC) done on the machines received by the state. Senior officials said the machines in which errors were detected were sent back to the Commission. The state was sanctioned 97,800 ballot units, 81,500 control units and 84,710 VVPATs and first-level checks are on.

Teams of Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), Bengaluru, perform checks on the machines. Till August, the FLCs of EVMs and VVPATs were completed in 13 districts. This is the first time that VVPATs are being used in the state for the Assembly elections.

The 7% error in VVPATs isn’t very high and the frequency of errors has actually lessened. In comparison to other states, where machines were used, the rate of errors is less. The errors are due to minor issues and the faulty machines have been replaced. -VL Kantha Rao, CEO, MP

Why VVPATs

•The VVPAT machine gives out a slip with the symbol of the party the person has voted for.

•The slip remains visible for 7 seconds to the voter to confirm the vote.

•It aims at dispelling doubts in the minds of voters that EVMs can be ‘managed’. 

Previous scare

  • In April last year, a VVPAT machine attached to an EVM in Bhind district during a demonstration had allegedly shown that, irrespective of which button was pressed, the VVPAT was dispensing only slips of the BJP symbol.
  • EC probe had later ruled out machine tampering.
  • Following the Bhind incident, the Congress had demanded that ballot papers be brought back for the elections.

The Congress has already moved the SC, seeking fresh guidelines for VVPATs, including VVPAT checks, mock polls and recounting, transportation of EVMs and VVPATs before and after the polls and FLCs of VVPATs. The election office should ensure free and fair elections. -Ajay Singh, Leader of the Opposition in the MP Vidhan Sabha

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Prabhatesh Tripathi

Principal Correspondent dbpost covering, political and policy affairs in Madhya Pradesh