ECI counters its Kasaragod official, tells SC reports of extra vote for BJP in mock poll false

Supreme Court
The Supreme Court on India. Photo: AFP

New Delhi: Countering its own official, the Election Commission of India on Thursday told the Supreme Court that allegations of Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) showing one extra vote during a mock poll in Kasaragod were false.
The top court was hearing a batch of pleas seeking complete cross-verification of votes cast using EVMs with Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT), an independent vote verification system which enables voters to see whether their vote was cast correctly. 

Kasaragod Assistant Returning Officer Binumon P told Onmanorama that the glitch happened in four machines when the power was turned on. In all machines, the first VVPAT slip would have the message 'not to be counted'. But in these four machines, the slips also had the party symbol of the first candidate in the voting machine, he said. "The technical engineers said it was not a mistake. I have given a report to the Collector," said Binumon.

But ECI chose to counter this and told the apex court that the news report was false. "These news reports are false. We have verified the allegation from the district collector and it appears that they are false. We will submit a detailed report to the court," senior deputy election commissioner Nitesh Kumar Vyas told a bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta. Vyas was present in the courtroom to apprise the bench of the functioning of EVMs. 

Earlier during the day, the top court asked senior advocate Maninder Singh, appearing for the Election Commission, to look into the issue after advocate Prashant Bhushan flagged the anomaly.

Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the Association for Democratic Reforms, cited a report by Onmanorama about the complaints raised regarding the mock polls conducted on the EVMs in Kasargod. At least four electronic voting machines erroneously registered votes in favour of BJP during mock polling in Kasaragod on Wednesday, April 17, agents of LDF and UDF candidates had alleged.

Kasaragod Lok Sabha constituency's LDF candidate and CPM leader M V Balakrishnan filed a complaint with District Collector Inbasekar K, designated as the District Election Officer, to look into the errors.

UDF candidate Rajmohan Unnithan's agent Muhammed Nasar Cherkalam Abdulla urged the assistant returning officer (ARO) in Kasaragod Lok Sabha constituency to change the erring machines. BJP's M L Ashwini is the NDA candidate in Kasaragod.

Nasar Cherkalam said the BJP's lotus was getting extra votes during the commissioning of the machines for the polling stations in Kasaragod Assembly Constituency. He also pointed out that the Congress' 'hand' symbol was smaller than other symbols on the voting machines and asked the officials to change it.

Kasaragod Lok Sabha constituency's voting machines have 10 options, including NOTA (none of the above). In the first round of mock polls, all 190 EVMs were tested by casting votes against each of the 10 options. BJP's lotus was the first option.

The officials tested 20 machines at a time. When all 10 options on the EVMs were pressed one time each, the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) gave two votes to the BJP in four machines.

When the BJP's lotus was not pressed, the same four erroneous VVPAT units gave one vote to the party, said Nasar Cherkalam. "When we raised the issue, the assistant returning Officer said the VVPAT slips with erroneous votes had the message 'not to be counted'," said Unnithan's election agent.

But if there is a dispute during counting, the BJP's agents would insist on counting these erroneous votes, said Nasar Cherkalam. "That's why we asked for the replacement of these machines," he said.

He said the errors automatically disappeared when the EVMs were tested for the third time. "But we cannot be sure that the errors would reappear in the fourth or fifth test," he said.

"However, what we found strange was that neither the CPM's hammer, sickle and star symbol nor the Congress's hand symbol got extra votes during the mock trial. Only BJP's lotus got extra votes," said Nasar Cherkalam.

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