The Election Commission has announced that “it is completely false to say that at multiple times slips of lotus were printed on pressing different buttons during the demonstration on 31st March,” in response to complaints that electronic voting machines (EVMs) in Bhind, Madhya Pradesh, were registering votes for the BJP regardless of which button voters pressed.
The special enquiry team led by Bhanwar Lal, chief electoral officer of Andhra Pradesh, in its report to the commission said it did not find any evidence of tampering or anomalies in the EVMs and the Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) that were used during the demonstration in Bhind (Ater) in the run-up to MP’s Assembly by-elections.
After several complaints of tampering, including those made by the Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the commission launched an inquiry into the EVMs to probe “all aspects of various allegations raised in the media and by the political parties”.
The EC said its technical examination of the ballot unit (BU), control unit (CU) and VVPAT used during the demonstration, oral examination of the officials present then and examining the data retrieved from the CU established that four of the BU’s buttons were pressed. These were connected to the Raju Pal’s hand pump symbol, Satya Dev Pachori’s lotus, Ambuj Shukla’s hand. The report said “on pressing of various buttons on EVMS during the demonstration, corresponding symbols were displayed.”
In light of these findings, the team concluded that claims saying that the machines printed slips displaying the lotus symbol even when voters pressed the buttons for other symbols were completely false.
The commission also offered an explanation for a video that showed chief electoral officer Salina Singh getting a BJP slip from the VVPAT after pressing a different button. It clarified that “the lapse related to non-deletion of the pre-loaded data of Govind Nagar AC of Kanpur Nagar from where VVPATs (not EVMs) were received.” According to the commission, the machines had not been reloaded with the symbols of the dummy candidates for the demonstrations as specified by the commission’s protocol.
The investigating team said that the “EVMs used in the demo in Bhind were not brought from UP. However, the VVPAT used in the demonstration was brought from UP. Since the VVPATs are limited in number and had been used by all the poll-going states during the last five state elections, the distribution of VVPATs for ten states’ by-elections was made by the commission by allocating VVPATs from different poll-gone states to different poll-going states. In this case, the VVPAT was allocated from UP and brought from Govind Nagar AC of Kanpur Nagar, UP.”
The EC also clarified that bringing a VVPAT from UP for MP’s elections did not violate the law. “As per the law, only the EVMs used in the poll and the VVPAT slips contained in the box are required to be preserved for the period of 45 days in a secured manner for the purpose of election petition, if any. There is no bar on the movement of VVPAT machines as the same are not required to be preserved for election petitions as the paper slips printed through the VVPAT and contained in the box are required to be preserved separately.”
In this case, however, the EC added that “further precaution was taken to move only the reserve VVPATs used as substitutes during polling – on which no restriction applies.”