Congrats to ECI on VVPAT use at Noksen, Nagaland – report from EVM Activists

Congratulations to ECI on  successful VVPAT use at Noksen constituency in Nagaland.   Dr. Alok Shukla should be commended for his able shepherding this project under the guidance of Dr. Quraishi and the current leadership of Mr. Sampath.  This is one step further in  protecting democracy of our great country.
Below is report from the two observers representing EVM activists who visited Noksen, Nagaland during the elections.
VVPAT Nagaland Image1
VVPAT Nagaland Image2

Questions and Answers (note the red flag)

1) Why Nagaland?

ECI has to answer why Noksen was chosen to conduct this exercise. Travelling was a challenge and a test of patience. From Dimapur to Noksen HQ was 6 hours. Covering the 21 polling booths was impossible given the terrain. Longra, Noksen and Litem were covered. There was disturbance at Longra alleging that the voter slip did not match but that was taken care of by the forces and Magistrate. We were not there at that given time and subsequently the voters we spoke to did not express any dis-satisfaction. The entire exercise as we saw in Noksen Village was well managed. There were 2 VVPAT’s used. In all 42 VVPAT’s were used during the bye-election.   There were elements who were telling the voters to press the first button but the security forces were strict and kept the outgoing voters to move out of the compound.

2) VVPAT with Electronic voting machine. How much transparency?

The team were satisfied with the set up and the transparency of the printouts. 

3) Voter knowledge of the system.

Doubts are there as to some voters did not know where to look at the instant the button was pressed. 5 -7  seconds are pretty quick and if one is not prepared to look at that glass window right from the beginning it can be a missed opportunity.

4) How much efforts put in by the ECI and the political parties for voter awareness.

From what we gather 2 weeks were spent on informing the people as to how to vote. Whether all the polling booths got that info it is difficult to say as only 3 polling booths were covered by us. i.e. Longra, Noksen Village and Litem.

5) Satisfaction and trust expressed by the voters. Preferred choice of declaring results i.e.bycounting paper ballots or EVM count.

Overall voters did not complain. We did try to get a response on what is there preferred choice for declaring final result. 84 people answered us. 55 said paper ballots, 38 male, 17 females. Remaining 29 were happy with the EVM’s.

6) Security arrangements i..e Police, Video cameras etc.

No video cameras were there. Camera man was appointed. Security presence was very strong.

7) Any other deficiency observed during polls – THE RED FLAG

Yes and this is a very strong point. In the evening when the EVM’s and VVPAT were being taken away in the vehicle it was observed there were already a few EVM’s present in the van. During the day we got friendly with a security guy and we told him our background and our reasons to be here. Thus we were able to watch the sequence where the police and the ECI officials took control of the EVM’s from the returning officer of that polling booth. The EVM’s were placed in the vehicle. The security personnel and the ECI official went in that vehicle. Now the returning officer of that booth does not know if the vehicle was supposed to come in empty or with how many EVM’s. In this case the EVM votes and paper ballots were counted but in future exercises this will not happen. This particular movement appeared to be the weakest point at least from where we stood. What is the paper dynamics behind all this amongst the officials is not known to us. What happens to the EVM’s whilst in movement can be the suspicious moments???? Is the identity of EVM established? Even if it is, the DMM’s can be replaced. We need to know more on this.

8) What does the rules say if voter finds discrepancy between candidate voted and the print out?

The new rule 49MA reads: Where a printer is used, if an elector after having recorded his/her vote alleges that the paper slip generated by the printer has shown the name or symbol of a candidate other than the one he/she voted for, the Presiding Officer shall obtain a written declaration from the elector on the veracity of the allegation, after warning him/her of the consequence of making a false statement.

The Presiding Officer will then permit the elector to record a test vote in the voting machine in his presence and in the presence of the candidates/polling agents. If the voter’s allegation is true, the Presiding Officer would immediately report to the Returning Officer and stop further recording of votes in the defective machine. As per another section 56D introduced in the rule, a candidate/election agent can request the Returning Officer to count the printed paper slips in the drop box of the printer (VVPAT) in any polling station. However, such counting will be allowed only with the permission of the Election Commission.

A brief synopsis of the entire exercise at Nagaland as per Observers.

A piece of election history was made in the remote Tuensang district of Nagaland with the successful culmination of counting of votes today, i.e, on 7th September, 2013 for the bye-election to 51-Noksen (ST) Assembly Constituency, where poll was held on 4th September, 2013 using,for the first time ever, the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) system with Electronic Voting Machines.

Under the VVPAT system, newly developed by the Electronics Corporation of India Limited and Bharat Electronic Limited, under the direction of the Election Commission and its Technical Experts Committee, a printer is attached to the balloting unit of the voting machine and is kept along with the balloting unit inside the screened voting compartment.

When a voter casts his vote by pressing of the candidate’s button against the name and symbol of the candidate of his choice, apart from the red light glowing against the name and symbol of that candidate, the printer also generates a paper slip containing the serial number, name and symbol of candidate for whom the vote has been cast.

This paper slip remains visible to the voter through a window covered by glass on the printer and after sufficient time i.e. 5 – 7 seconds, gets automatically cut and falls into the box permanently attached below the printer.

This enables the voter to verify and satisfy himself that the vote cast by him for the candidate of his choice has been actually recorded correctly for that candidate. In case of any doubt, these paper slips can be counted at the time of the counting of votes and tallied with the number of votes recorded in the control unit of the voting machine.

The poll on 4th September, 2013 as well as the counting of votes went off smoothly and without any problem. At the time of counting, the number of votes displayed in the voting machines against each of the two contesting candidates tallied with the paper slips generated by the printers of the VVPAT system on actual counting of these paper slips.

In the Nagaland by-election to Noksen Assembly constituency in Tuensang district of Nagaland on Wednesday, 70.3 per cent voters exercised their franchise through Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) system for the first time in India.

State Chief Electoral Officer, Sentiyanger Imchen said 8,553 voters out of 12,088, cast their votes amidst tight security. Tuensang Deputy Commissioner T Mhabemo informed that no untoward incident was reported from any part of the constituency.

Tuensang Deputy Commissioner and DRO, Mhumbemo Lotha said that a total of 70.3 per cent exercised their franchise through the VVPAT without any problem faced by either the election officials or the voters.

He said polling in all the 21 booths ended peacefully in a free and fair manner, except for commotion at Longrah polling station due to alleged mismatch of a voter slip.

The security personnel in the booth resorted to blank firing in order to control the situation. The voting continued normally after the intervention of the sector magistrate, he said.

Out of the total 12,088 electorates, including 6,146 males and 5,942 females, only 70.3 per cent exercised their franchise in 21 polling stations spread over 19 villages in the constituency.

Three companies of Indian Reserve Battalion and CRPF personnel were deployed for security duty while the Assam Rifles provided ‘environmental security’ in vulnerable areas in the constituency.

The polling officials were strictly instructed to follow the ‘one man, one vote’ system with proper identity.

51-Noksen (ST) Assembly Constituency had 12088 electors distributed across 21 polling stations (including one auxiliary polling station). The two candidates who contested the said bye-election were – Shri C.M. Chang of Naga People‘s Front and Shri Luma Onen Chang of Indian National Congress. The counting of votes was conducted by the Returning Officer of 51-Noksen (ST) A.C. in the presence of Commission’s Observers and Counting Agents of both the contesting candidates. The details of votes cast are as under :

a) Total No. of electors : 12088

b) Total No. of Votes polled (including postal ballot papers) : 8553

c) Total No. of postal ballot papers rejected : 3

Shri C.M. Chang (NPF) secured 5708 votes, whereas Shri Luma Onen Chang (INC) got 2845 votes and, accordingly, Shri C.M. Chang (NPF) was declared elected by the Returning Officer.

Additional Notes on Nagaland Election:

Lok Sabha MP and NPF-led DAN candidate C.M Chang retained the 51-Noksen Assembly Constituency in the bye-election which concluded September 4.

In a straight fight, the results which was declared Saturday, C.M Chang defeated Congress candidate Liman Onen Chang with a margin of 2863 votes.

C.M Chang polled 5662 votes including 46 postal ballots totaling to 5708 votes while Lima Onen polled 2831 votes with 14 postal ballots in his favour totaling 2845 votes.

Out of the total 12074 voters (6142 males and 5932 females), 8493 had caste their votes and total postal ballot papers received was 60. The counting was held at DC’s conference hall Tuensang Saturday, with no untoward incident reported. 

It may be mentioned that earlier, in the February general election, C.M Chang polled 5602 votes while Lima Onen Chang who contested as an NCP candidate polled 4510.

It may be mentioned that Nagaland became the first state in the country to use a high-tech voter recording system, which leaves a verifiable paper trail of votes cast in the by-election to the 51-Noksen A/C.

During the counting of votes Saturday, the number of votes displayed in voting machines against each of the contesting candidates tallied with the paper slips generated by printers of ‘Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail’ (VVPAT) system on actual counting of these paper slips.

Rio congratulates ECI, state poll officials

Chief minister Neiphiu Rio and the state government has congratulated the Election Commission of India (ECI) and the state election machinery for conducting “free, fair and peaceful” bye-election to the 51-Noksen A/C.

In a statement Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) also lauded the people, civil societies and the mass based organizations for extending cooperation and ensuring conduct of successful elections.

CMO also expressed gratitude to the electorates of 51-Noksen A/C for reposing faith in the NPF-led DAN government’s official candidate C.M Chang who retained the seat with a bigger margin of victory.

The VVPAT (Voter verifiable Paper Audit Trail) system is launched ahead of its first use in Indian Parliamentary elections. The new system, an initiative of the Election Commission, will be used in the 51 Noksen A/C Bye-election on September 4th.

Marking a historical landmark for the Indian electioneering process, the VVPAT (Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trial) was first introduced to polling personnel in Tuensang, Nagaland by Dr. Alok Shukla, Deputy Election Commissioner. This was done during the first phase of training for polling personnel for the September 4, 51 Noksen A/C Bye-election at Chang Khulie Setshang Hall, Tuensang on Thursday.

Dr. Shukla stated that EVM’s were first introduced at Perul, Kerala in 1982. It was used in the entire country for the first time at the 2004 parliamentary election and this will be the first time since its introduction that an additional unit (printer) is added to the EVM.

He divulged that numerous tests have been done in all climatic conditions across the country resulting in 100% accuracy. He expressed confidence that the installation of the printing unit would be successful and enable voters to physically verify their candidate of choice.

As the voter presses the ballot button, the vote is recorded in the control unit and simultaneously, the ballot slip is printed. It will be visible to the voter for seven seconds through a small screen in the printer. The serial number and symbol of the candidate are printed in the ballot slip. Printing is done thermally and refilling of ink is not required. The ballot slip is automatically cut after seven seconds and dropped into the ballot slip compartment. The printer also has a paper roll compartment that supplies paper for the ballot slip. This compartment is not to be opened during the poll and an additional printer will be provided in case there is shortage of paper during the poll.

Shukla affirmed that counting during this election will be done by the machine. In case a discrepancy arises, a petition needs to be filled to the Returning Officer, after which manual counting of the ballot slip can be done.

The Union Law Ministry, which has amended the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961, to allow use of electronic voting machines fitted with the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) system, has introduced a new section to enable the voter to challenge VVPAT operation in case of doubt.

The new rule 49MA reads: Where a printer is used, if an elector after having recorded his/her vote alleges that the paper slip generated by the printer has shown the name or symbol of a candidate other than the one he/she voted for, the Presiding Officer shall obtain a written declaration from the elector on the veracity of the allegation, after warning him/her of the consequence of making a false statement.

The Presiding Officer will then permit the elector to record a test vote in the voting machine in his presence and in the presence of the candidates/polling agents. If the voter’s allegation is true, the Presiding Officer would immediately report to the Returning Officer and stop further recording of votes in the defective machine. As per another section 56D introduced in the rule, a candidate/election agent can request the Returning Officer to count the printed paper slips in the drop box of the printer (VVPAT) in any polling station. However, such counting will be allowed only with the permission of the Election Commission.

The EVM, fitted with VVPAT, is to be field-tested for the first time in the September 4 by-election in the Noksen (ST) Assembly constituency in Nagaland. Such machines will be installed in all polling stations.

 

Concept of VVPAT (for those interested)

The concept of Voter Verified Balloting was created by Rebecca Mercuri.

VVPAT is the acronym of “Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail” and VVBP is the acronym of “voter verified paper ballot”. The terms are equivalent and refer to a kind of “vote receipt” printed by an electronic voting machine that shows the elector his/her vote as it is being entered into the electoral system. The voter must be required to perform an action that confirms that their choices have been recorded correctly on the paper, hence making it a verified (rather than just “verifiable”) ballot in a legal sense. The VVPAT/VVBP is kept by the election official, as the record of votes cast, for audit and recount purposes. Verification of a small percentage of VVPAT should to be activated when elections are close.

I see the following points about VVPAT:

                •             the winner of the election is decided in the first count (probably the only count) which is based on electronic votes. Infact VVPATs are counted in the second count (recount or audit), but this rarely happens thus VVPATs will most likely not be used or counted. You are able to view the Paper Audit Trail, and make sure it is correct. You have no way of knowing what your electronic ballot says. You can feel relatively certain that if there is a hand recount, your vote will be counted properly. But since hand recounts are very rare, when you look at that piece of paper, you are not actually verifying your vote. There is still nothing to verify that your actual vote was correct.

                •             VVPAT recounts shouldn’t occur only when elections are very close.

Infact where deliberate fraud does take place, the magnitude of the fraud may not be small. And also the magnitude of accidental errors may not necessarily be small. Thus fraud and errors can produce very different results. Unfortunately many people, and state laws, only want recounts to be conducted when elections are very close. It seems that people are willing to do recounts in the case of small accidental errors but not to detect fraud or large errors!

                •             it is not possible to make a statistical “recount” of VVPATs by manually counting a small percentage of them and seeing if the result is more or less the same as the electronic one. Infact, as candidates of USA-2000 election well remember, elections can be very close and so a precise count of all the VVPATs could be necessary. Some legislations require a little 1% recount to validate electronic results!

Thus VVPAT can’t be used to verify electronic electoral results unless they are all counted. But if we really print and count VVPAT for each casted vote then we simply run a paper election which ballots are printed by machines instead of being hand written by electors!

                •             we double the efforts of each election, which is now made of an electronic one and a paper one

                •             we greately increase the election cost (try to imagine how it costs to buy and maintain a PC in each voting boot, plus the software, plus the network apparatus and lines, plus the high-tech skill involved, … and compare it with the cost of ballot papers and pencils!)

                •             we know from the beginning that the official result will always be the one coming from the counting of VVPATs. Infact we use them to confirm electronic results, thus in case of discepancies they surely win. Thus, what for do we also run an electronic election?

Thus we started looking for a way to verify electronic result and we ended up in the need of a paper election to confirm results of the electronic one! It’s great, isn’t it.

=====

Satya Dosapati
Save Indian Democracy
#evmindia

One response to “Congrats to ECI on VVPAT use at Noksen, Nagaland – report from EVM Activists

  1. Well here is another attack vector.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/15/us/nsa-effort-pries-open-computers-not-connected-to-internet.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

    People claiming farud proof due to the air gap nature of the EVM’s should now answer this

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