The opposition parties stand discredited over their stand on VVPAT verification of EVMs. In the lethal power of Modi’s strike they have lost their faculty of speech; so it will take them a few therapies to regain their voice. That must explain their silence now.
The most devious part of their protest against the voting machines was that they raised the bogey on the basis of exit poll results, which had nothing to do with the EVMs. The EVM results came only two days later. That simply gave away the mischief. The final results show the desperation of leaders like Chandrababu Naidu, scorned and rejected outright on his home turf, to create a ruckus.
The march of 21 opposition parties to the office of the Election Commission after the Supreme Court dismissed the last in a series of petitions demanding increase in the number of mandatory verification to 100 percent of VVPAT paper trails amounted to not only expressing lack of confidence in the highest court of the land, but challenging the law of random, which is a matter of science.
The afternoon drama followed a two-judge vacation bench curtly dismissing a petition filed by a collective of technocrats named ‘Tech4All’ as ‘nonsense’ as the issue had been settled by the Chief Justice of India in an earlier plea by 21 opposition parties.
The argument on behalf of the ruling NDA that the malfunctioning of EMV is never raised when opposition parties are voted to power has been repeated ad nauseam. So it is best avoided here, although the point is indeed valid.
But the opposition parties challenging the theory of random cannot be allowed to go unchallenged as it amounts to questioning the ‘neuroscience’ of chance as described in an article in Scientific American by New York Times best selling author Michael Shermer. It is titled ‘How randomness rules our world and why we cannot see it.’
The article is about the power of random in contests, gambling, decision-making and what not: ‘Embrace the random. Find the Pattern. Know the difference’.
While dismissing the petition filed by 21 opposition parties, claiming to represent 70-75 percent of the country’s total population, the Supreme Court said it gave due consideration to the matter. The court examined the whole gamut of the random selection of constituencies for the purpose of VVPAT verification so that the margin of error is kept to the minimum, if not eliminated altogether.
The opposition parties wanted the number of constituencies chosen for verification to be increased to 50 percent, but the court agreed for 5 percent after it was satisfied that the random selection would ensure 99 percent accuracy as testified by the experts of the Indian Statistical Institution.
The assumption was based on the response received from a team of experts on ‘what would be the reasonable sample size of polling stations where VVPAT slips verification is required to be carried out to achieve the object of establishing the credibility and integrity of the electoral process’.
In response, the ISI submitted an elaborate report, the crux of which is that verification of VVPAT paper trail of randomly selected 479 EVMs would generate over 99 percent accuracy in the election results.
But the Election Commission guidelines for VVPAT verification provides for a much larger number of EVMs. The commission informed the court that the verification of VVPAT paper trails of one assembly constituency or assembly segment in a parliamentary constituency would involve verification of VVPAT paper trail of 4,125 EVMs instead of 479 EVMs, which is eight times more than what has been suggested by the ISI.
And to ensure randomness, an elaborate procedure has been laid down for the draw of lot to select the constituency, the size of the paper card to be used for the lottery, its colour, the place for holding the lottery to ensure confidentiality and the like.
For instance, the cards will be white in colour and its total number will be equivalent to the total number of polling booths so that no booth is left out from the possibility of being selected. The paper cards to be used for the draw are to be four-folded in such a way that the polling station number is not visible.
Each paper card shall be shown to the candidates or their agents before folding and dropping in the container. The verification of VVPAT paper slips shall be done in a ‘VVPAT counting booth’, specially prepared for this purpose inside the counting hall. The booth shall be enclosed in a wire mesh just like a bank cashier’s cabin so that no VVPAT paper slip can be accessed by any unauthorized person.
According to the Election Commission, the sample verification of the VVPAT paper trail of one EVM is done by a team of three officers under the direct supervision of the Returning Officer and the Election Observer of the constituency. The process takes about an hour.
What clinched the issue in favour of the Election Commission was the time required to verify 50 percent of the VVPAT paper trails, which would have delayed results declaration by 5-6 days.
The timing of the opposition protest could only be seen as a knee-jerk reaction to the discomfort of a series of exit polls predicting serious drubbing to these parties. The basic folly of the opposition argument is that they consider it as an electronic duplication of the process of mechanical voting, which is not what VVPAT is supposed to do. It is only a system to verify the accuracy of the process at random. It is outright foolish to say that random checking must be done on every machine. That is why the Election Commission is so adamant. Justifiably so.
When a batch of products is checked for quality, the samples are selected at random. There is no need to check every box in the batch as long as the process of manufacturing is uniform to all the boxes. This is basically the difference between the stand of the Election Commission and that of the opposition parties. The two views can never be reconciled unless the parties understand the meaning of random selection, which they are refusing to do.(IPA Service)