VVPAT counting ordered in 144 centres in MP as mock votes in EVMs not deleted

Bhopal: A major lapse in the ‘standard operating procedure’ (SOP) in voting on November 28 has come to light just a day ahead of counting as it was found that Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in 144 polling centres of 21 districts were not cleared of mock poll count as required.

The Election Commission of India (ECI) has ordered voter verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) counting in these 144 centres. The chief electoral office (CEO) of MP wrote to the ECI on December 7, only 9 days after polling took place.

Opposition party Congress has raised strong objections alleging foul play and sought action. The poll officers, returning officers, district election officer and observers deputed in 144 booths are now under scanner of the ECI.

Congress to lodge complaint on Tuesday

Sources said the poll officers of the districts did not inform the CEO of the lapse and it was detected by CEO office only after scrutiny of documents. It was found that as per SOP, the poll officers are mandated to clear the count of EVM’s by performing the ‘close-result-clear’ process in the EVM, but they failed to do so. Since the EVM’s were not cleared of the mock poll count, the original count of real polling were added on over the existing uncleared stack of the EVM.

Congress party’s election affairs cell in-charge JP Dhanopia said “A formal complaint will be lodged with ECI on Tuesday.” Chief electoral officer VL Kantha Rao said instructions were received from ECI and actions will be taken against officials as per rules.

Major districts where lapse occured

Bhind, Gwalior, Guna, Sagar, Tikamgarh, Chhatarpur, Damoh, Panna, Satna, Rewa, Singrauli, Sidhi, Shahdol, Anuppur, Dindori, Chhindwara, Betul, Raisen,Ujjain, Ratlam and Neemuch.

Ater: Postal ballots looted, recovered

  • 256 ballot papers in a bag were allegedly looted from postal staff in Bhind district on Monday. Two accused held while one is still absconding.
  • District election officer Dhanraju S refused to comment. The bag was recovered in the evening. Three men looted the ballot papers in Ater constituency.

All set for counting today

  • More than 15,000 employees have been engaged for the counting work across the state, said chief electoral officer, VL Kantha Rao. Results are expected around evening.
  • Counting would begin at 8 am with postal ballots at all district headquarters. Counting from EVMs would begin from 8.30 am. Counts would be displayed at screens in centres and on EC website after returning officers sign the tabulation sheet in the presence of an observer.
  • It would take an average of 22 rounds to complete the counting process. Maximum number of rounds would be in Indore 5 constituencies at 32, while Kotma of Anuppur district would take minimum 15 rounds.
  • After objection from the Congress, ECI has dropped the idea of webcasting of counting process. More than 1,200 CCTV cameras have been installed at 306 counting centres and the video footage would be kept safe for future reference.