The first day of the 2019 Lok Sabha Polls saw multiple constituencies across the country reporting malfunctioning Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs). For instance, Andhra Pradesh Chief Electoral Officer Gopal Krishna Dwivedi said this morning that there were complaints about technical glitches in EVMs in about 50 places. Polling reportedly had to be temporarily halted in some places - including Dehradun in Uttarakhand, Cooch Behar (West Bengal), Bijnore and Baghpat in Uttar Pradesh, and Jamui (Bihar) - due to EVM failure, which led to delays.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and Telugu Desam Party chief N Chandrababu Naidu has, in fact, written to the Election Commission seeking re-polling in numerous polling booths that faced technical glitches. Voting is underway for 25 Lok Sabha and 175 Assembly seats in the state. "Many voters who returned may not come back for voting even if polling is resumed after replacement/repair of existing EVMs. Therefore repolling needed in all polling stations where polling had not commenced up to 9.30 am," the CM said in his letter.
So, how can you tell whether the EVM is working when you go to cast your vote, and what do you do if it is not working? Here's a ready reckoner:
Is the EVM working?
EVMs consist of two units - a control unit and a balloting unit - joined by a five-meter cable. Once the polling officer in-charge of the control unit releases a ballot on the control unit, you will be able to cast your vote by pressing the blue button against the candidate and symbol of your choice or against the NOTA (none of the above) option on the balloting unit.
When you press the blue button, the lamp against the selected symbol should glow red and the machine should emit a long 'beep'. That's how you know that the EVM is working and your vote has been recorded. The Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT), an independent system attached with the EVM for verification of voting, will give you an additional visual verification in the form of paper slip.
Also, note that EVMs do not require electricity and run on an ordinary battery. So you don't need to worry about power cuts.
What happens if the EVM is out of order?
If you don't see the red glow or hear the beep when you press the blue button against the candidate of your choice, then just inform the polling officer and the glitch will either be repaired or the EVM will be replaced with a new one.
Also, there is no need to re-start the polling process even if the EVM needs to be replaced mid-way on voting day. All the recorded votes are safe in the memory of the control unit and on counting day, May 23 this time round, all the votes recorded in both units will be counted.
Is it possible to vote more than once?
No, you can't press the blue button against the candidate of your choice multiple times. As soon as you press the button, your vote is recorded and the machine gets locked. The next vote is enabled only when the presiding officer or polling officer in-charge of the control unit releases the ballot again by pressing the ballot button.
What is VVPAT?
VVPAT is an independent system attached with the EVM that allows you to verify whether your vote has been cast as intended. It runs on a power pack battery. Once you cast your vote, this machine dispenses a slip with the name of the candidate and his/her party symbol printed on it. This slip is displayed through a transparent window for seven seconds and then automatically drops into a sealed container. Hence, matching EVM and VVPAT results dispel fears about EVMs being 'hacked' to favour a particular political party.
What if the printed slip names a different candidate than the one selected by the voter?
In such a scenario, the presiding officer or polling officer in-charge will ask you for a written declaration as per the provisions of Rule 49MA of Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961, after warning you about the consequence of making a false declaration. Once you hand over this declaration, you will be permitted to record a test vote in the voting machine in the presence of the above officer as well as other candidate and polling agents who may be present in the polling station. If the paper slip generated backs up your allegation, the presiding officer will report the matter immediately to the Returning Officer to stop further recording of votes in that EVM.