The government has agreed to release 3,000 crores to buy new electronic voting machines that print a paper receipt for each vote cast. The decision comes as opposition parties have attacked the machines currently in use as being vulnerable to rigging and is expected to be announced by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley later today.
In 2013, the Supreme Court said that the Election Commission must introduce the new machines called VVPATs (machines with Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail) in phases. The next general election in 2019 is to be run, on the court's orders, entirely with these upgraded machines, but the Election Commission has warned that it is running out of time to place orders for VVPATs.
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Last week, the Supreme Court asked the Election Commission and the centre to explain the delay in switching to VVPATs which function like this: when a button is pushed to choose a candidate on a voting machine, a slip of paper shows the party symbol of the candidate selected. The receipt is visible to the voter for a few seconds before it drops into a sealed box.
Opposition parties including Mayawati's BSP have asked the top court to order that only VVPATs are used in all elections; if that is not feasible, they want India to return to using ballot papers.Their case was filed after the BJP's outsized victory in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand in March, where they allege voting machines were gamed in favour of the BJP. The Election Commission has firmly rejected the accusations and said that in May, it will hold a hackathon to prove that the voting machines in use cannot be manipulated.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal who was the first opposition leader to suggest that machines had been rigged to help the BJP - he said this was the only explanation for his Aam Admi Party falling well short of winning February's election in Punjab. Mr Kejriwal said that next week's municipal corporation election in Delhi should either be conducted with VVPATs or ballot paper, but was turned down by the Election Commission.