GUWAHATI, April 17 - Social Actions for New Alternatives (SANA), a study group on electoral process, in a statement, has expressed serious concern at the reported malfunctioning of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) at many polling stations across the country during the first phase of the Lok Sabha elections.
SANA director Bidhayak Das, who reportedly could not exercise his franchise at a polling station in Shillong on April 11, said, “Machines are prone to error, and therefore, the ECI must be ready with back-up plans.”
Das, who has been associated with electoral management and clean election advocacy and training in various parts of the globe for the past 15 years, recalled his experiences of machine malfunctioning in countries like the Philippines, where the civil society built continuous pressure on the election commissions to come clean. He urged all sections of society to play a more meaningful role on this issue.
He further said, “What is indeed worrying is that the Election Commission of India has not come up with any convincing responses to the demands from the opposition on non-functional EVMs which led to delay in voting in several polling stations in Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Uttarakhand, Jammu and Kashmir, Bihar, Assam, Manipur, West Bengal, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh. The ECI must answer for these let-ups and how the delay would have impacted the process of voting. Given the several hours of delay in some polling stations, in Andhra Pradesh, voters may have left without voting, unable to wait under the scorching heat or having to attend to family needs. This would also tantamount to a violation of the voters’ rights.”
The SANA director also urged the news media to exercise great caution and responsibility before going public with allegations. “It may be mentioned here that some news media had reported about voters alleging that their votes were going to the BJP in Assam’s Tezpur parliamentary constituency and also in Meghalaya’s Shillong constituency even if they hit the button for another candidate. These reports are completely unverified and the CEOs of Assam have categorically dismissed these as fake news where allegations are as serious as the ones mentioned and if reports are carried based solely on what voters have said, then that may create a dangerous precedent where every aspect of the voting process will be based on mere suspicion and allegations. This will damage the credibility of the electoral process, which by and large has been well managed so far,” he added.