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Babu’s blues: Poor handling of EVMs by poll officials

 

Training of polling personnel on use of electronic voting machines leaves much to be desired. Presiding officers attending these training programmes say that the training is more of a formality and not a serious affair. There is no standardized content or structure for the training. Nor is adequate number of technical persons available for training.

 Presiding officers who are in-charge of polling stations are given classroom training in large batches in conference halls. They get hardly any practical training in conducting elections on EVMs.

Vinay Kumar, a teacher who worked as a presiding officer in the 2009 Jharkhand assembly elections says, “We are given a briefing about the functions and operation of the voting machines in large groups and told to read detailed notes given in the presiding officers’ diary. Each group of 10 persons is given one voting machine to practice on our own on the voting machine. Then, we are asked to sign in a register that we have understood everything. On paper, you cannot find fault with the training process but in reality, it is woefully inadequate.”

P. K. Gaikwad, who worked as a presiding officer in the 2009 Maharastra polls says, “The entire training lasts for a period of three hours. A group of five to ten officials are given one machine and told to practice on it. The hands-on-training on the machines is not at all adequate.”

The Election Commission is aware of the pitfalls of training but conveniently shifts the blame onto the officials. The Commission says:

 “It has further come to the notice of the Commission that some of the Presiding Officers/ Sector Magistrates do not take EVM training seriously with the result that they fail to operate the machine at the time of poll.” (Election Commission’s letter to CEO’s dated 21st January, 2009)

Owing to poor handling of EVMs, at a number of polling stations the EVMs are either mishandled or malfunction resulting in disruption in the poll places. Voters across many polling stations told us that the polling is suspended for some time during polling hours due to EVM problems. Besides causing delays, voters tend to supect some foul paly during these breaks.

 

Ineptness of senior officers

It is not just lowly presiding officers, but even senior officials at the level of Returning Officers exhibit ineptness in handling voting machines. Election Commission acknowledges that the polling officials face problems in operating voting machines due to problems in the preparation of voting machines at the Returning Officer’s level.

During previous elections, it has come to the notice of the Commission that there were some difficulties in the operation of the electronic voting machines at a few polling stations due to the fact that they were not prepared correctly as per the operational manual at the time of initial preparation at the Returning officer’s level.” (Election Commission’s letter to CEO’s dated 21st January, 2009)

Wrong “preparation” of voting machines can have disastrous consequences and lead to votes of one candidate getting recorded in favour of another. The Commission’s letter of 21st January, 2009 acknowledges such incidents are not uncommon. The letter said, ”while in some (voting machines) ‘side switch’ on the balloting unit was found to be in wrong position, in others, certain other preparatory defects were noticed.”

Another problem of improper inter-linking relates to a mix up of control units in case of simultaneous assembly and Lok Sabha elections. If the ballot unit(s) meant for assembly election are linked with the control unit of Lok Sabha and vice versa, the consequences would be disastrous. For instance, the votes of first candidate on the ballot paper for assembly election will get delivered to the first candidate in the Lok Sabha election and likewise.

Does this mean that babu’s don’t like EVMs. Far from it, they love them. Surprised! Read in my next Blog.

 

I can be reached at nrao@indianEVM.com

This entry was posted on Saturday, May 22nd, 2010 at 7:34 AM and is filed under EVM PROBLEMS. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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