'Trust in electoral system paramount': Congress objects to remote voting proposal

"Trust in the electoral system is paramount for democracy to function. The German Federal Constitutional Court struck down Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in Germany in 2009 because the opacity of the machine cannot give a voter the confidence that his or her vote is being correctly recorded.

The Congress on Thursday expressed its objections to the Election Commission proposal inviting political parties to observe the functioning of a prototype Multi-Constituency Remote Electronic Voting Machine on January 16, 2023 and to make written submissions by January 31, 2023.

"Trust in the electoral system is paramount for democracy to function. The German Federal Constitutional Court struck down Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in Germany in 2009 because the opacity of the machine cannot give a voter the confidence that his or her vote is being correctly recorded.

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"In spite of their widespread use, EVMs have aroused much controversy in India. Unfortunately, fears of their misuse have not been systematically addressed. Voters and parties must have confidence in the electoral system. However, this trust has been repeatedly violated in recent years on account of pressure being put on the Election Commission of India by the (Narendra) Modi government," Congress General Secretary, in charge of communication, Jairam Ramesh said.

He said the most recent examples was the Election Commission delaying the announcement of the election schedule in Gujarat to give PM Modi more time for electioneering in his home state. "It also gave him yet another free pass to violate the model code of conduct by allowing a road show on voting day in Gujarat, " he said.

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"On issue after issue, our representations to the Election Commission result in no action. In Gujarat this time we also saw suspicious voting numbers which showed that 10-12 per cent of voters cast their votes in the last hour of voting. This translates into an impossible 25-30 seconds being taken to cast each vote. You need a minimum of 60 seconds to cast a vote.

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"Now imagine if these suspicious patterns can be extended via a multi-constituency voting machine to other locations. This would seriously undermine trust in the system," he added.

Ramesh said the Congress has made constructive suggestions in the past to increase confidence in the voting process by expanding the number of booths in which Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) slips are counted. However this has also not been accepted.

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"We call on the Election Commission to restore trust in the electoral system with transparency and via honest engagement with the opposition's concerns," he said.

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