Thursday, April 13, 2017

Pune Civic Polls; system admits mistakes, terms it "human errors"

In a shocking revelation, Returning Officer ( RO) of Pune civic polls has admitted that  ballot units ( BU) were changed and mock poll was conducted one day before actual polling in absence of candidates or their representatives .In an explanation to  this writer’s earlier post “EVMs may not be but system is vulnerable to fraud” and in a reply to candidate of ward no 33, the returning officer    ( RO) has admitted many mistakes during election process , but has termed those as human errors. RO’s  explanation has raised more doubts about election process that was conducted for Pune Municipal Corporation in February 2017.

 As all the ballot units (BU)  and control units ( CU)  were sealed and kept in tight security (?) question of  any change in it does not arise at all. However on actual polling day (21st February)  when polling staff opened BUs serial no’s of BUs were different from those recorded and sealed on 2nd randomization of EVMs i.e. 15th February. In polling station no 10,12,28, 49 and 50  BU numbers were P44052, P 43551, MO22334, P143888 & P14390 respectively .But on  actual poling day those were P14992, P11947, MO23334, P 14386 & Mo 27617 respectively . If on voting day Ballot units are found faulty they can be changed after following proper procedure. Then how come and when  these ballot units were changed?

In an answer to this question of candidate RO has categorically said that BUs were changed  one day before polling day and on same day mock poll was conducted in absence of candidates or their representatives. In Marathi he has said उपरोक्त बदल हे दि २०/२/२०१७ रोजी मतदान केंद्राध्यक्ष यांनी मतदान केंद्रावर पोहचल्यानंतर रात्री उशीरा मॉकपोल बॅलेट युनिटमधील बटण मध्ये तांत्रिक अडचण उद्भवल्यामुळे झोनल अधिकारी यांचेकडे उपलब्ध करून दिलेल्या राखीव बॅलेट युनिटचा वापर  करण्यात आला आहे . वेळेअभावी या बाबतची सुचना उमेदवार किंवा उमेदवार प्रतिनिधी यांना देण्यात आली नव्हती.

That means , Such changes  were made because after arriving late night on 20/2/2017 on polling station, the technical difficulty was observed by presiding officer in a button of ballot unit and hence reserved BUs provided by zonal officer was used . Due to time constraint this was not communicated to candidate or their representatives.How come presiding officer goes to Polling station one day erlier of actual poll, changes the Bus and   conduct mock poll in absence of candidates or their representatives?

Normally as per election procedure mock poll is conducted thrice. 1st  at first Randomization of ballot and control units in presence of representatives of political parties,2nd at the time of second randomization and candidate setting in presence of candidates or their representative and 3rd  on actual polling day before polling starts. So question of mock poll on day before actual polling day doesn’t arise at all. The major question is, if such mock poll was conducted in all the civic poll constituencies or how?. If mock poll was conducted for all ballot units in Pune polls in absence of candidate then this is very serious matter.

Actually as per election procedure When the EVMs are taken out of the strong room for dispatch, they have to  inform  the date and time of opening of strong room in writing to the candidates or their representatives. In a communication to this writer  RO  has mentioned that all CU & BU were changed at the time of dispatch only so presiding officer has not mentioned the change in his diary.This is something ridiculous . Polling party is not supposed  to touch any ballot unit button or take mock poll while taking possession of election material.

 If any defect arises in the Ballot Unit (BU)or Control Unit (CU) of the EVM during poll process, it is mandatory to replace the entire set of EVM (both BU & CU) by new set of EVM (BU & CU).And presiding officer has to record the reasons of replacing CUs or BUs in his diary. In instant case presiding officer has not recorded any reason for changing BUs in his diary.

There are some other serious issues that RO has termed them as human error. In  ward no 33 in around 21 polling stations  sequence of BU was changed. on 15th February  as per procedure EVMs were checked randomized , allotted polling station  wise, sequence wise  and sealed in presence of candidate or their representatives. Sequence of candidates was also set on the same day .Copies of serial no of polling station  wise ballot units (Bu) , Control unit and sequence of candidates set were given to candidate.

As per rules  Ballot Unit should be connected to control unit according sequence allotted to them only. Changing that sequence amounts to exchange of votes to another candidates. On upper right side of ballot unit there is slide switch that indicates sequence No of ballot unit . Polling staff wrote the sequence as they saw it on BU. Then how come sequence of ballot unit was changed and who changed it ?.This amounted to interchange of BUs. This has happen in 21 polling stations . This Number is very high. RO says this was human errors. If his version has to be admitted then Election commission has to admit that the staff on election duty was poorly trained or under educated.

In the upgraded model of the voting machines in case of change in sequence of ballot unit  linking error appears on the display panel of the control unit. The linking error can  be set right by interlinking the Ballot Units in the proper sequential order. Now election commission has to clarify whether EVM used in pune civic polls were of upgraded version or not and whether staff on election duty was poorly trained or under educated.

Election commission of India has clarified that in case of elections to Municipal bodies or Rural bodies like Panchayat Elections, the EVMs used do not belong to the Election Commission of India. Above local bodies elections come under the jurisdiction of State Election Commission/s (SECs), which procure their own machines and have their own handling system. ECI is not responsible for functioning of EVMs used by SECs in above elections. In my entire posts on election I have not blamed the EVMs but what about the system that handle the EVMs. Is that different in case of election commission of India?

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