The 2019 Lok Sabha elections are drawing to a close with only one of seven gruelling phases remaining, and it is only natural now that a country's thoughts and attention turn towards results day, i.e. May 23. On that heady Thursday, all eyes will be on the all-important numbers as the parties discover just what the citizens of India have made of their campaigns, and in the larger picture, their contributions in the last five years, either in power or in the Opposition - at the Centre and in the states. However, while one may think that vote-counting, especially electronic vote-counting, is simply about numbers flashing quickly on a screen and the big scores emerging, the actual procedure is both complicated and fascinating.
So here's how millions of votes will be counted in the 2019 Indian Lok Sabha elections? Here are the important questions:
What are the parts of the EVM?
As per the EVM manual published by the Election Commission of India, the EVM has two parts - the control unit (CU) and the balloting unit (BU). The control unit which is kept with the polling official ensures verification of the voter's identity. He then presses a Ballot Button which enables the voter to cast their vote. The BU in the voting station has a list of candidates names and/or symbols with a blue button next to it. There is also an independent system called the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) where one can view the slip containing the serial number, name, and symbol of the candidate the vote is cast for through a transparent window.
Who can count the votes?
- The counting of the votes in a polling station is done under the supervision of the Returning Officer (RO) who fixes the time and place for counting to commence prior to the poll dates.
- Counting of polls in an EVM is done within 3-5 hours in the presence of the RO along with counting staff, election agents, candidates, counting agents, public servants who are on-duty and authorised Election Commission (EC) personnel.
How are the votes counted?
After a thorough inspection of the EVMs verifying the unique ID number of the CU, the Unique ID number of the Pink Paper Seal and the unique ID number of Green paper seal by the counting staff, the counting procedure begins. Only CUs are used in the process.
- First, the polling start date and time and poll end date and time displayed on the CU are verified with the records of the polling agents.
- Then the counting of votes polled in the individual machine is verified with the records. Votes polled for each candidate is noted and printed separately by each polling station of the constituency.
- In case of discrepancies in date or time of polling in EVM, close button not pressed at the end of the poll on EVM or if CU does not display result at the time of counting authorised procedures will be followed as mentioned in the EVM manual - https://eci.gov.in/evm/
Since this election also has an additional counting of VVPAT slips, as per the SC order will be undertaken by selecting five polling booths per assembly segment. So this exercise will be held in 20,600 of the 10.35 lakh polling stations on May 23 when votes for the Lok Sabha elections are counted.
How are VVPATs counted and verified?
- Random selection of one polling station for each constituency will be taken up after the completion of the last round of counting of votes recorded in the EVMs by draw of lots.
- The verification of VVPAT paper slips shall be done in a 'VVPAT Counting Booth' (VCB), specially prepared for this purpose inside the Counting Hall.
- The verification count of the VVPAT paper slips shall be conducted strictly in accordance with the instructions of the Commission on the counting of printed paper slips. The entire process will be videographed.
- The VVPAT Paper Slips will be taken out from the drop box and segregated one-by-one and put in respective pigeon holes after showing each slip to the Counting Agents making bundles of 25 slips of each candidate.
- VVPAT Paper Slips shall then be counted by the counting staff.
What happens once counting is done?
- After completion of counting of votes from all the Control Units, the VVPAT unit(s) of the respective polling station(s) should be brought to the Counting Table(s) where the EVM along with the VVPAT drop box will be collected irrespective of whether the result has been retrieved from it or not. Then the cases are sealed and the RO and the observer put their signatures on the seal. All candidates and their election agents are also allowed to put their signature on the seal.
- The Control Unit is then kept in the strong room.
- Once all rounds of counting are done the final result sheet is prepared by the RO and the result is reported to EC and appropriate authority.
- On the next day of counting day, a report on the verification of VVPAT Paper Slips shall be submitted by the CEOs to the Commission.
Counting day is May 23 and results of all 543 Lok Sabha constituencies will be declared on the same day. Watch Republic TV for the quickest and most accurate trends, and the most incisive and detailed analysis with Arnab and team.
(Source: Election Commission of India)