We had earlier reported how a light-hearted banter by the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) of Madhya Pradesh was reported as ‘threat to journalists’ by certain media organisations. The CEO had thrown that banter during a public demonstration of an EVM with VVPAT system in Bhind ahead of an assembly bye-election.
Not only that, the mainstream media showed its bias or incompetence by picking up a particular report by Dainik Bhaskar where it was claimed that different buttons on EVMs returned BJP symbols, and repeated it thousand times, even though reports by other two newspapers – Nai Duniya and Patrika – didn’t claim so and even a report by Dainik Bhaskar itself, which was changed later, had claimed that the EVM buttons were working fine. You can read our report on the above incident here.
Conflicting reports by different newspapers could be an example of deliberate mischief by journalists, which can’t be ruled out, but we will give benefit of doubt to the local journalists and assume that they were inadequately educated or not skilled enough to understand what was going on.
One can even argue that the local journalists were egomaniac enough not to take the light-hearted banter by the CEO lightly, and decided to ‘teach her a lesson’ by claiming that she was serious. However, we’d again give benefit of doubt and assume that they didn’t get the humour or sarcasm of the CEO and didn’t misreport about her conduct out of any ill-will.
Now a journalist who can’t understand a sarcastic comment by the Chief Electoral Officer can be credited to be clumsy enough to not understand how VVPAT (voter verified paper audit trail) system works.
To repeat yet again, VVPAT is a system where a machine (not the EVM, but a different machine attached to the EVM) prints a paper slip after a voter presses any button on the EVM. The voter physically verifies if the paper slip has the name and symbol of the same party (and candidate) he had voted for, as he can see the slip, which later gets dropped in a ballot box (drop box). If he claims that wrong symbol was printed, he has to sign a declaration saying so.
This lack of awareness or skill to understand how the VVPAT system works was highlighted again today when many journalists confused a VVPAT’s printing machine with the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM). Equipped with the confidence that they can never be wrong, the journalists went on to write stories like:
‘Faulty’ Bhind EVM was last used in Kanpur polls, says EC team
The above report in the Times of India quoted officials from the Election Commission of India and claimed that the EVM, which allegedly printed only BJP symbols regardless of the buttons pressed, was last used in Uttar Pradesh elections.
Firstly, the report repeated the unverified claims of Dainik Bhaskar, and secondly it gave further fodder to Congress and AAP leaders, who not only used it as “proof” that elections were rigged in Uttar Pradesh, but further asked why was the EVM transferred even though they are mandated not to be taken out till 45 days are over since the time of declaration of results of the elections where they were last used.
Now it appears that the EC team had told them about VVPAT’s printing machine, but the clueless journalists reported them as EVMs. The printing machines of VVPAT system are not mandated to be frozen for 45 days, hence they were brought to Bhind as such machines are not in abundance. Only the print outs from those machines are to be stored for 45 days along with the EVMs.
The same was clarified in a press release issued by the Election Commission of India:
The press release by the Election Commission also clarified that the VVPAT’s printing machine was not reset during the demonstration and hence there could have been some confusion over what names or symbols were getting printed. This perhaps also explains the original confusion, which was later blown out of proportion by a clueless media and some vile politicians.
Since the demonstration was made without resetting the earlier symbols and undertaking what is known as First Level Checking, the Election Commission replaced the District Election Officer as disciplinary action. This too is being wrongly claimed as a “proof” – that disciplinary action was taken because EVMs were faulty – whereas disciplinary action was taken because standard procedures were not followed.
Nonetheless, the Election Commission has declared that it will still look into the allegations of multiple buttons printing the symbol of the same political party, and the findings will be made public soon.