[Indepth] VVPAT Machines: The Future of Voting or a Technological Nightmare?

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The Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) system in India, a mechanism for voters to verify their cast vote, is currently at the center of a legal and political debate. Recent petitions filed by activists and political parties have urged the Supreme Court to mandate the counting of all VVPAT slips to ensure electoral integrity. These developments come amidst concerns over the transparency and reliability of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and the Election Commission’s guidelines on sequential VVPAT verification.

VVPAT in India upsc mindmap

This topic of “[Indepth] VVPAT Machines: The Future of Voting or a Technological Nightmare?” is important from the perspective of the UPSC IAS Examination, which falls under General Studies Portion.

What is VVPAT & How it works

  • Definition and Purpose:
    • VVPAT, or Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail, is a system that provides feedback to voters using a ballotless voting system.
    • It serves as an independent verification system that allows voters to confirm their votes are cast correctly and provides a means to audit the stored electronic results.
  • Operational Mechanics:
    • When a voter casts their vote on an EVM, the VVPAT prints a paper slip with the candidate’s name, serial number, and symbol.
    • This slip is displayed through a transparent window for seven seconds, allowing the voter to verify their selection.
  • Security and Verification:
    • After the voter has viewed the slip, it is automatically cut and falls into a sealed drop box within the VVPAT unit.
    • These slips can be used later to corroborate the results of the EVM in case of allegations of vote fraud or discrepancies.
  • Key Components of the VVPAT System:
    • Printer: Integral to the VVPAT system, responsible for printing the paper slip with the voter’s choice.
    • Sealed Compartment: A secure area within the VVPAT unit where the printed vote slips are collected and stored.
    • Display Window: A transparent section allowing voters to visually verify their printed vote slip for a brief period before it falls into the sealed compartment.
  • Manufacturing and Development:
    • VVPAT machines are developed by Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) and Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL).

Early Adoption and Implementation

  • Introduction of VVPAT in India: The system was first introduced in India during the Noksen Assembly Constituency bye-election in Nagaland in 2013.
  • Legislative Support for VVPAT: The Conduct of Election Rules, 1961, was amended to incorporate the use of VVPAT, establishing a legal basis for its implementation.
  • Judicial Endorsement for Transparency: In 2013, the Supreme Court of India directed the Election Commission to adopt VVPAT systems to enhance the transparency and credibility of the electoral process.
  • The VVPAT system has been used on a large scale since the 2019 Indian general election, with all 543 Lok Sabha constituencies equipped with it.

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Significance and Benefits

  • Transparency and Voter Confidence:
    • The VVPAT system enhances the transparency of the electoral process by allowing voters to verify their votes, thus boosting voter confidence in the accuracy of the election results.
    • Physical verification through VVPAT slips serves as a reliable method for auditing, ensuring that the electronic vote matches the paper slip.
  • Audit and Dispute Resolution:
    • VVPAT provides a mechanism for manual audits and recounts if necessary, which is crucial for resolving disputes or allegations of electoral fraud.
    • The paper trail generated by VVPAT can be used to verify the electronic count in case of discrepancies, thereby upholding the integrity of the voting process.
  • Accessibility and Inclusivity:
    • The system is particularly beneficial for visually impaired, illiterate, or elderly voters, offering a more accessible voting experience by allowing physical verification of their vote.
    • This inclusivity ensures that all sections of the electorate can participate in the electoral process with confidence and reassurance.
  • Cost-Effectiveness:
    • While the initial implementation of VVPAT may involve additional costs, it is considered cost-effective in the long run by potentially reducing the expenses associated with re-elections or extensive legal challenges.
  • Enhanced Electoral Integrity:
    • The introduction of VVPAT in Indian elections has added an extra layer of transparency and accountability, minimizing the chances of electoral fraud or tampering.
    • The system plays a crucial role in enhancing the credibility of the electoral process, ensuring that every vote is accurately recorded and counted.

Challenges and Criticisms

  • Technical Glitches and Reliability Concerns:
    • Instances of malfunctioning VVPAT machines have raised questions about their reliability, with some machines failing during elections, leading to delays and inconvenience for voters.
    • Critics argue that the design flaws, such as sensitivity to light and humidity, necessitate frequent replacements and adjustments, undermining the system’s efficiency.
  • Logistical and Operational Challenges:
    • The Election Commission’s (EC) strategy to increase the reserve of VVPAT machines to 35% to address technical failures, while practical, has led to concerns about the scalability and logistical feasibility of managing such a large inventory.
    • Adjustments like reducing the number of voters per polling booth to accommodate the VVPAT process have been criticized for potentially slowing down the voting process and increasing the complexity of election management.
  • Legal and Political Disputes:
    • Legal battles and demands from political parties for increased VVPAT slip verification, up to 100% in some cases, highlight ongoing disputes over the adequacy of the current verification process to ensure electoral integrity.
    • The Supreme Court’s directive to increase the number of VVPAT verifications per assembly constituency has not fully satisfied opposition demands, leading to continued legal challenges and calls for more extensive verification.
  • Concerns Over Electoral Integrity:
    • Despite the introduction of VVPATs to enhance transparency, there are persistent doubts among some political parties and activists regarding the effectiveness of VVPATs in preventing electoral fraud or tampering.
    • The debate over the transparency of the EVM-VVPAT system and the EC’s reluctance to allow for a higher percentage of VVPAT slip verifications has fueled skepticism about the electoral process’s integrity.
  • Public Trust and Confidence:
    • The complexity of the VVPAT system and the publicized instances of technical failures have contributed to a cloud of suspicion among some voters, potentially affecting public trust in the electoral process.
    • Critics argue that the EC’s responses to frequently asked questions (FAQs) regarding EVMs and VVPATs have been insufficient to dispel doubts and ensure the high standards of transparency expected by the electorate.

Supreme Court Judgments and Directives

  • Key Rulings on VVPAT Verification:
    • The Supreme Court has historically taken steps to ensure the integrity of the electoral process by mandating the random verification of VVPAT slips.
    • In 2019, the apex court ordered the Election Commission to increase the number of EVMs undergoing VVPAT verification from one to five per assembly segment in a parliamentary constituency.
  • Recent Petitions and Demands for Increased VVPAT Verification:
    • A series of recent petitions have been filed seeking a more extensive cross-verification of EVM data against VVPAT slips, with some activists and political parties advocating for a complete count of VVPAT slips.
    • The Supreme Court has issued notices to the Election Commission and the central government in response to these pleas, which may lead to a potential increase in the number of VVPAT verifications.
    • Petitioners have proposed alternatives such as simultaneous VVPAT verification to expedite the process, suggesting that with more officers deployed, the verification could be completed within five to six hours.
    • The demand for increased verification stems from concerns over discrepancies reported between EVM and VVPAT counts in past elections, with the aim of ensuring that every vote is verifiably “recorded as cast” and “counted as recorded”.

Political Parties’ Stance

  • Opposition’s Push for Broader VVPAT Verification:
    • Political parties forming the opposition bloc, including the Congress and others within the I.N.D.I.A. alliance, have been vocal in their demand for a full count of VVPAT slips.
    • The opposition’s resolution emphasizes the need for enhanced transparency and public confidence in the electoral process, proposing that VVPAT slips be handed to voters for 100% counting.
    • This stance is driven by concerns over the integrity of EVMs and the desire to ensure that every vote is verifiably recorded and counted.
  • Government and Election Commission’s Response:
    • The Election Commission of India (ECI) has defended the non-tamperable nature of EVMs, describing the demand for 100% VVPAT verification as regressive and impractical due to logistical challenges.
    • The ECI has highlighted the statistical robustness of the current system, which involves random verification of VVPATs from five polling stations per assembly segment, as being sufficient to ensure the accuracy of the electoral process.
    • The Commission has also pointed out the technical difficulties in handling the chemically-coated VVPAT slips, which could make a full count time-consuming and complex.

Future Prospects and Recommendations

Technological Enhancements

  • Improvements in VVPAT Technology:
    • Enhancing Slip Visibility and Durability: Initiatives to improve the visibility of VVPAT slips for voters and ensure the durability of these slips to withstand environmental factors and handling during the verification and storage process.
    • Safeguarding Voter Privacy: Implementing measures to further protect voter privacy, ensuring that the VVPAT slip viewing process does not compromise the confidentiality of the voter’s choice.

Policy Recommendations

  • Optimizing VVPAT Verification:
    • Balancing Act: Developing a strategy to achieve a balance between transparency and efficiency in the electoral process, ensuring that VVPAT slip verification enhances electoral integrity without causing significant delays or logistical challenges.
    • Statistical Sampling: Considering the adoption of a statistically significant, yet manageable, percentage of VVPAT slip verification across different constituencies to ensure the reliability of election outcomes without overwhelming the counting process.
  • Boosting Voter Confidence:
    • Awareness Campaigns: Launching comprehensive public awareness campaigns to educate voters about the VVPAT process, its importance for electoral transparency, and how it works to safeguard their vote.
    • Hands-on Demonstrations: Expanding initiatives to provide voters with first-hand experience of EVMs and VVPATs through demonstration centers and mobile vans, aiming to demystify the technology and address any misconceptions.


The Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) system represents a significant advancement in India’s electoral process, aiming to bolster transparency and voter confidence. Despite facing technical and logistical challenges, the VVPAT’s role in ensuring the integrity of elections is widely acknowledged. Moving forward, a balance between efficient electoral management and the need for transparency will be crucial, as will ongoing technological improvements and public education efforts to maintain trust in the democratic system.

Practice Question

Evaluate the impact of the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) on the transparency and integrity of elections in India. Discuss the challenges and future prospects of VVPAT implementation. (250 words)

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