CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury on Wednesday, May 22, said the Election Commission's rejection of the Opposition demand to first count the VVPAT slips went against the "spirit" of a Supreme Court order on the devices.
Yechury's reaction comes after the commission decided to stick to its plan to count the voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) slips in the end and not in the beginning as demanded by the Opposition.
The Commission has decided to follow the established procedure of counting voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) slips for the mandatory five polling stations per Assembly segment of each parliamentary constituency at the end of the entire counting process.
The opposition parties which had approached the EC on Tuesday wanted five random VVPATs to be counted first so that if there is a problem or a mismatch, all VVPAT slips can be counted before it is too late. Though EC had made it clear to the parties on Tuesday that the old protocol would continue, its top officials met Wednesday and decided to continue with counting the slips at the end.
Also Read: Opposition Petitions EC Over Reports on EVM Movement From Strongrooms
The exact reasoning for sticking to the old protocol was not immediately clear.
Commenting further on the EC’s decision, Yechury added, "If the process has been so long drawn for the sake of integrity of the electoral process, why is (the) EC not adhering to the basic principle of testing the sample first?" the Left leader asked.
"Integrity of EVMs by matching with sample VVPATs has to be done at the start of the counting," Yechury said, adding, "Doing so after the trends are declared makes it infructuous and is likely to lead to protests and a possible law and order situation from the affected candidates."
The Commission has also decided to count postal ballots simultaneously with Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) count due to the "sheer size" of the ballots received this time from service voters. Till now, the postal ballots were counted in the beginning followed by votes polled in voting machines. As per procedure, postal ballots so far were the first to be counted.
The number of service voters stands at 18 lakh and these include personnel of the armed forces, central police force personnel and state police personnel who are posted outside their constituencies.
Diplomats and support staff posted in Indian embassies abroad are also counted as service voters. Out of the 18 lakh registered voters, 16.49 lakh have sent their postal ballots to their respective returning officers as on May 17.
The exercise of counting postal ballots manually will itself take a couple of hours at least, an EC official said. "We don't want to hurry up, but at the same time we do not want to slow down the counting either, keeping in mind the number of such ballots received. Therefore, the postal ballot count could continue simultaneously with EVM result count," an official said.
Also Watch: Umpire Be Fair, Be Seen to be Fair