The totaliser, and it’s benefits
In 2008 the Election Commission (EC) approached the ministry of law with the proposal to use ‘Totaliser’ machines for the counting of votes. According to EC, the votes polled at 14 polling stations would be calculated together and announced together, instead of announcing results of each polling station individually. The logic behind is, this would make it impossible to know the voting trends of each polling station. This possibly might save the voters of a particular polling station from post-election harassment, negligence and victimization.
In the assembly elections in Bengal earlier this year, there were reports of families in East Midnapore who did not vote due to the fear of post-poll reprisal. It is in places and situations like these, where the use of totaliser would benefit the voter and thus encourage more people to exercise their democratic right.
Are EVMs history?
The Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) aren’t going anywhere, they are there to stay. According to the initiative, a cluster of EVMs will be connected to the totaliser machine to mask the voting pattern of an individual booth.
The history of government approval
The proposal of EC use of totaliser was referred to the parliamentary committee in 2009, but no action was taken. In 2014, the EC again approached the ministry of law on this issue. In January 2016, the Supreme Court recorded that the government has sought the view of the ministry of law on this issue. A few days back, and in a big electoral reform, the government has decided to discontinue the practice of revealing booth wise results with each constituency. Instead totaliser machines would be installed for elections and they will mask the voting pattern, in individual booth.
Will the totaliser be beneficial?
While the intention behind EC’s suggestion and the government’s acceptance to use totaliser might be good, but will it be of any use?
In May 2016, the BJP held protests in Noida and Ghaziabad against the UP government for allegedly creating an artificial power crisis in the two NCR districts after the ruling Samajwadi Party lost from both the seats in the Lok Sabha polls. Many such similar incidents have taken place where the people were made to suffer for using their democratic right in a way that did not please their democratically elected government.
The other challenge for the totaliser machine would be the municipal elections. How exactly would it be beneficial there? Since the results need to be declared for each ward, based on which the ward representative gets elected. Additionally, the number of votes that each ward member contestant received needs to be declared also. This data can always be used by any political party to ascertain where exactly does their voter base exist.
In a progressive society while new ideas should always be welcome, stress should be on the value add that the new idea might bring into the existing system. Implementing something new just for the sake of bringing change in the existing system would not only cost the poor Indian population dearly, but would not give the desired results. Additionally there is no dearth of projects where this money could be diverted, like constructing and repairing schools for children, job creation, infrastructure development and even educating the ministers as to when and where they should take selfies – they obviously know the how part very well.