In addition to 930 polling booths in Gujarat, where mandatory counting of VVPAT (Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail) slips will take place on Thursday, the Election Commission has also decided to count the slips in 15 other polling stations, where the presiding officer “forgot” to erase the mock-poll data from Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), official sources said.
The booths where mock-poll data were not erased are spread over 11 Lok Sabha seats — Patan, Mehsana, Gandhinagar, Ahmedabad East, Ahmedabad West, Surendranagar, Rajkot, Chhota Udepur, Bharuch, Valsad and Junagadh, data accessed by The Indian Express show. While most of these seats have one polling booth each, Ahmedabad West, Chhota Udepur, Bharuch and Valsad have two polling booths each, where the VVPAT slips will be counted.
Before the commencement of poll, the presiding officer demonstrates to the polling agents that there are no hidden votes recorded in the machine by pressing the result button. Thereafter, he conducts a mock poll with at least 50 votes in the presence of the polling agents and tallies it with the electronic result stored in the control unit of the EVM. Thereafter, the presiding officer presses the clear button to clear the mock-poll data, before commencing the actual election process, but in the 15 booths the officer forgot this step.
The officer has to press “total” button, which displays “0”, in front of the polling agents. Then the Control Unit is sealed before the actual poll starts.
When asked if any action was taken against the erring officials in Gujarat, a senior EC official said, “The officers simply forgot and so the commission decided to count the VVPAT slips instead of the data on the EVMs. The VVPAT slips in these 15 polling booths will be counted tomorrow (Thursday). This will be in addition to the polling booths where mandatory counting will take place,” the official added.
The verification of VVPAT paper slips of 930 randomly selected —- five in each Assembly constituency —— polling booths shall be taken up after the completion of the last round of counting of votes.
For the counting process in 26 Lok Sabha seats in Gujarat, the Election Commission has deployed 26 returning officers, 182 assistant returning officers, 103 assistant returning officers for postal ballots, 2,548 counting supervisor, 2,548 counting assistants and 2,912 micro observers.