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Appeal

#CountEveryVote / #HarVoteKoGino Campaign

Dear Friends and colleagues,

We write requesting you to join us in the #CountEveryVote / #HarVoteKoGino campaign that has recently been initiated to demand 100 percent counting of Voter Verification Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) slips which we consider the real ballot under the current circumstances. We feel that the Electronic Voter Machine (EVM) should only be used as a tool for facilitating voting, i.e, used as a only a device to cast the vote and for purposes of cross checking the count of the VVPAT slips, i.e, the ballots.
 
As you may be aware, here have been several controversies surrounding the reliability of EVMs and their potential to be hacked or malfunction. In light of the doubts raised about these machines, VVPAT machines were introduced with the objective of increasing  transparency and credibility of the voting process and to increase voter confidence. The Supreme Court of India directed the Election Commission that the VVPAT machines must be universalized and made available in all polling booths for the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections.

The VVPAT comes with a procedure were by the VVPAT slips appears before the voter in a window for 7 seconds before dropping into a box. Within these 7 seconds the voter can gain confidence of the same symbol appearing on the voter slip (ballot) that they voted for. Ironically, the Election Commission is not counting the slips that are designed to give the voters confidence but instead is continuing to take their count from the EVM machines! Obviously, this makes a mockery of the transparency process and questions the credibility of the objective of the VVPAT mechanism.

Furthermore, there have been reports of complaints of widespread VVPAT and EVM malfunction from across the country during the first three phases of polling and yet the Election Commission has remained silent on this issue.

In instances where voters have made complaints upon noticing a wrong symbol printed on the VVPAT slip, the Election Commission has enforced an undemocratic rule called 49MA to address this issue. As per this rule, upon noticing the discrepancy between the button pressed on the EVM and the symbol appearing on the VVPAT machine, the voter can register a complaint with the Presiding Officer of the polling station in the form of affidavit and the voter can cast a second vote which is considered a test audit. This test audit is conducted in the presence of the candidates or polling agents who may be present in the polling station to observe the results. If the test audit the slip generated by VVPAT machines matches the test vote recorded by the voter on the EVM machine, then the complaint is considered false and an FIR can be filed against the voter who will be charged under Section 177 of the IPC and is liable to be punished for upto 6 months in prison and pay a fine of Rs. 10,000. This law which criminalizes the voter under 49MA is likely to have a chilling effect on any potential complainant. In this context, we strongly demand that what we see is what should be counted and strongly opposed Section 49MA of Conduct of Elections (Amendment) 2013 Rules that penalizes the voter under this provision.

For those who would like to learn more, notes have been attached with this mail with further details about these issues.

While we understand the odds are stacked against us for this demand accepted now, it is also clear that it is possible for this to introduced and operationalised before the counting of the Lok Sabha 2019 ballots. Despite asking, no official has been able to explain why such counting cannot take place even if they don’t personally agree with the need for it. Given the importance of this question, we are determined to launch and build the campaign to the best of our abilities. If all those who agree with these issues participate we are certain that together we will able to bring this into national focus.

For this campaign we have launched a series of activities as mentioned below:

(i) Offline signature campaign (format of the signature campaign is attached with this mail)

(ii) Online signature campaign (link will be shared soon in a follow up mail)

(iii) Postcard campaign where post cards from across India will be sent to the Election Commission with the demands mentioned above

(iv) Meeting with Election officials: We have also sought an appointment with the Chief Election Commissioner in the coming days where a set of eminent and engaged citizens will meet the Chief Election Commissioner on the two main issues mentioned above issues - 100% counting of VVPAT and Section 49MA. We will follow our meeting the Chief Election Commissioner with a press conference in New Delhi. We also request that people undertake similar meetings with elections officials at their respective locations.

(iv) Candlelight Vigil on May 7th 2019.  A candlelight vigil will be held in New Delhi on this day. We would also request that this candlelight vigil be held in as many states across the country as possible, i.e. state capitals as well as district headquarters. We suggest that this activity be carried out in small or large numbers but should be done as a strong silent voice. For this we recommend that the those gathering should use placards and posters using #CountEveryVote or #HarVoteKoGino message but suggest that this protest be conducted without the use of mics and sloganeering.

(v) Extended Vigil in New Delhi from May 17th 2019 evening onwards: On the evening that all campaigning formally draws to a close, we plan to organize an extended vigil that will continue indefinitely or till counting begins. This event will begin with another candlelight vigil for an hour in the evening.

We request those who participate / organise events at their respective locations to take photographs and share information regarding the event with us on the same day.

Apart from the activities stated above, we are also reaching out to public intellectuals, political party leaders, experts and of course the sovereign citizen whose vote is to be counted to join us in helping build a successful campaign. We are also requesting the organizations and movements affiliated with Jan Sarokar to lead or coordinate or participate in delegations to attend meetings in all states across India to meet with the Electoral Officer and submit the letter (attached in the email) to the Chief Election Commissioner through the Chief Electoral Officer for the concerned states. We request you to collect receipts every time a letter is submitted and if possible issue a press note on the same.

As mentioned in the note, 21 parties have approached the Election Commission and Supreme Court asking for an increase in VVPAT counting to at least 50 percent. We request to organize meetings with political parties in your respective states to discuss this on-going campaign.

Finally, we are planning to invite leaders of all political parties to pledge allegiance in support for this demand during the extended vigil in New Delhi from May 17th 2019 onwards. The tentative date has been set for May 20th 2019, after the last phase of voting and before the counting begins.

Requesting solidarity,

Zindabad!

Aruna Roy and Nikhil Dey
(On behalf of Team Jan Sarokar)

Frontier
Apr 29, 2019