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Elections: How Are Your Votes Counted? Are They Secure? Here’s How It All Works!

Every person inside the counting hall is required by law to maintain, and aid to maintaining, the secrecy of voting.

Today is the big day for Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh. But do you know the people responsible for bringing the results to you? In fact, the entire process ensures the secrecy and security of the counting. Here’s all you need to know about the counting process –
In 1980, M. B. Haneefa invented the first Indian voting machine. His original design (using Integrated Circuits) was exhibited to the public in Government Exhibitions held in six cities across Tamil Nadu.
The EVMs were commissioned in 1989 by Election Commission of India in collaboration with Electronics Corporation of India Limited. The Industrial designers of the EVMs were faculty members at the Industrial Design Centre, IIT Bombay.
The EVMs were first used in 1982 in the by-election to North Paravur Assembly Constituency in Kerala for a limited number of polling stations and are being used in Indian General and State Elections to implement electronic voting in part from 1999 elections.
The EVM consists of two units, namely, the Control Unit and the Balloting Unit. The two units are interconnected when the voting machine is put in operation using a cable, one end of which is permanently attached to the balloting unit. The free end is plugged into the control unit when the machine records votes.

Representation of the People Act, 1951, Sec 64: Counting of Votes

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The counting of votes is done under the supervision and direction of the Returning Officer. Contesting candidate/election agent/counting agents are allowed to be present at the counting venue.

ROLE OF COUNTING AGENTS

The counting of votes may be simultaneously done at more than one place and more than one table at the same site. As the candidate or his election agent cannot be expected to be physically present at each of such counting places and tables, the law permits the candidate to appoint his counting agents, who may be present at each of the said counting places and counting tables and watch his interests.

QUALIFICATION FOR COUNTING AGENTS

The law does not prescribe any specific qualifications for persons to be appointed as counting agents. However, the candidates are advised to appoint mature and major persons as their counting agents so that their interests are properly watched.
Security personnel are not allowed to enter the counting hall as per standing instructions of the Election Commission. Therefore, a Minister of the Central or State Government, who is given security cover at State expense, is not allowed to function as an election agent or Counting Agent.

MAINTENANCE OF DISCIPLINE AND ORDER IN THE COUNTING HALL

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Everyone is required to fully cooperate with the Returning Officer in maintaining strict discipline and order inside the counting hall.
All reasonable facilities for drinking water, refreshment, toilet, etc. are provided adjacent to the counting hall, and the counting agents and others inside the counting hall are allowed to go outside only after the declaration of result.

MAINTENANCE OF SECRECY

Every person inside the counting hall is required by law to maintain, and aid to maintaining, the secrecy of voting and are not allowed to communicate to any person any information calculated to violate such confidentiality.
Any person contravening the provisions of law in this respect is liable to be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 3 months or with fine or with both (Section 128 of the R.P. Act, 1951)

Scrutiny and inspection of EVMs before counting

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Counting staff and counting agents must inspect and ensure that the control unit is not tempered and all seals are intact. If the seal is disturbed, the Election Commission of India should be informed about it.

ASCERTAINING THE RESULT

After satisfying that the paper seal is intact, the votes recorded therein are counted. For this purpose, the following procedure is followed by the counting supervisor:-
(i) Power switch provided in the rear compartment of the control unit will be put to ‘ON’ position. The ‘ON’ lamp in the Display Section of the control unit will then glow green.
(ii) The paper seal over the ‘Result I’ Button provided beneath the upper aperture of the inner cover of Result Section will be pierced through.
 (iii) The ‘Result I’ Button will then be pressed.
(iv) At the ‘Result I’ button being so pressed, the total number of votes recorded for each candidate at the polling station shall be displayed automatically in the Display Panels of the control unit.

RESEALING OF VOTING MACHINES AFTER COUNTING

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After the result of voting recorded in a control unit has been ascertained candidate-wise and entered in ‘Part II – Result of Counting’ of Form 17C and in the Final Result Sheet in Form 20, the control unit shall be resealed with the seal of the Returning Officer and the secret seal of the Commission.
The resealing will be done in such a manner that the result of voting recorded in the control unit is not obliterated, and the unit retains the memory of such result.
And so, that’s how it happens!

Written by Manabi Katoch

A Mechanical Engineer-turned-writer, Manabi finds solace in writing stories about unsung heroes. Nothing makes her happier than the impact emails from her readers. Other than writing, she loves listening to the stories told by her six year old daughter. Manabi can be reached at manabi@thebetterindia.com. You can also find her tweets @manabi5