After the EVM hacking theory didn’t hold ground following the massive win of NDA in the Lok Sabha elections, a new theory has been tried to be floated by some sections of media to allege foul play in the elections. In an attempt to discredit the BJP led NDA’s win and to suggest that the elections were somehow rigged, now a conspiracy theory has emerged to allege that in many places, the number of total votes counted was more than the total number of votes polled on election day.
The Election Commission of India has now released a detailed note explaining why the reported mismatch of data is alarmist and nothing but malicious rumour mongering.
The ECI, in its press release said that two categories of votes are counted to arrive at the final result of General Elections 2019, first is Votes polled in EVM by General voters from over 91.1 Crores electors at Polling Stations and second category is Postal Ballots returned from over18 Lakh Service voters and also from the polling personnel deployed for the poll duties, outside their Parliament Constituency in case of single elections and all polling personnel in case of simultaneous elections as was the case recently when besides the election to 17th Lok Sabha, the Assembly elections for four states namely Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Odisha and Sikkim to Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha also went for poll.
The EC press release further said that, “The provisional voter turnout data is displayed as percentage figure on Election Commission of India (ECI) Web site and Voter Helpline Mobile App on the poll day as uploaded by the Returning Officer(RO)/Assistant Returning Officer (ARO) based on the approximate percentage turnout figures obtained from Sector magistrates who in-turn get it periodically over phone/ in person from about 10 Presiding officers. After scrutiny of documents by the RO, the provisional number of General voters’ turnout is compiled and uploaded on the ECI website based on the Polling Station wise tentative voter turnout data reported by the Presiding Officers, with male/female voter breakup, added together to get the PC wise provisional voter turnout. All these figures are provisional, based on estimates which are subject to change as is made clear from the disclaimer on the website that “the data is estimated and subject to change”.
The commission explained that at the time of counting of votes, postal ballots received upto to 8 AM on counting day (23rd May, in this case) are first pre-counted and then taken up for actual counting for both categories of postal ballots, that is, the service voters and the polling personnel deployed for poll duties.
Then, the postal ballot count is added to the EVM general voters’ count to give the final cotes polled in every phase, the votes secured candidate-wise and the winning candidate is given a ‘return certificate’ in form 21E by the Returning Officer.
The Election Commission clarified that after the Ballot votes and EVM votes have been counted, the Returning Officer prepares Form 21E and Index Card in which the breakup of voter turnout, including tendered votes for the Constituency, is tallied to get the final voter turnout for each Constituency.
Further, they clarified that the “INDEX CARD in use since last over five decades, is prepared by the Returning officer to furnish the voting data (including postal ballot data), polled and counted, after the declaration of the Result, which becomes the final authenticated data for all purposes including analysis and research. For General Elections 2019, Commission has already directed all the Returning Officers on 26th March 2019 to send the INDEX CARDS within 15 days of the declaration of the Result”.
Explaining the difference between tentative data and the final data, the EC press release said that earlier it used to take 2 to 3 months to get the final data after the declaration of results but now, due to innovative IT solutions that have been employed by the EC, the final data on votes counted has been made available within a few days of declaration of results. The reconciliation of voters’ data for all PCs have been completed in all states and the Index Forms of all 542 PCs are expected to reach ECI from Returning Officers shortly, which after compilation, shall be immediately be made Public by the Election Commission.
This entire explanation by the ECI clarifies that the fearmongering regarding “ghost voters” and that the numbers of votes counted are more than the number of votes cast is nothing but malicious fear mongering. The ECI clarifies that the numbers of votes polled as indicated on the ECI website is just provisional and the final numbers are made available for public consumption much later after verification. Earlier, the verification process took months, this time, the time taken has been reduced considerably.
Website NewsClick.com had also published a malicious report peddling the same dubious theory. The report alleged that thousands of phantom votes are suspected in several Lok Sabha constituencies in Bihar, UP, Delhi and MP. The website, which is a promoter of dubious Hate Crime Watch in association with FactChecker.in, says they analysed eight constituencies, where they found that excess votes recorded in these seats are more than the winning margin. OpIndia had fact-checked the NewsClick report to show how these conclusions were drawn based on fake data using provisional data on the ECI website as the final voter turnout numbers.