Goa's top election official bats for paper ballot

Electronic voting machines, or EVMs, may have made the conduct of elections easy and tamper-proof, but Goa's top polling official says the use of the traditional ballot paper is both cheaper and better suited for small states.

IANS| Last Updated: Mar 20, 2015, 14:27 PM IST

Panaji: Electronic voting machines, or EVMs, may have made the conduct of elections easy and tamper-proof, but Goa's top polling official says the use of the traditional ballot paper is both cheaper and better suited for small states.

State Election Commissioner M Modassir should know. He has just conducted the Zilla Panchayat election, using the good old ballot paper.

A total of 66.43 percent of the voters turned out. This was a 12 percent rise in voting percentage compared to the Zila Panchayat election in Goa of 2010. There are 50 Zila Panchayat constituencies in Goa's two districts. Each Zila Panchayat covers three panchayats.

Modassir said he found no point in going for the electronic voting machines (EVM) as a "fashion".

"Why to burden the government just by what you will call 'joining the fashion' when I can manage with the old style ballot papers?" Modassir told IANS.

The official said that using EVMs to hold elections was an expensive affair. While it suited big states with a large voter base, he felt that they made no sense for small states with sparse population like Goa. "The maintenance cost of these machines, the cost of calling the engineers, re-calibrating them, everything is very high.

"So, at the end of the day, I feel satisfied that the elections were held without spending a huge amount of taxpayers' money," Modassir said.

According to him, while the cost of conducting the Zila Panchayat election using ballot paper was about Rs.2 crore, it would have cost the state government Rs.5 crore to organise the election with EVMs.

EVMs were first used as a pilot project in 1989. Over the years, they have become a steady fixture in the national and state elections because they are said to be tamper proof.

EVMs also make the vote count an easy affair. Counting hundreds of thousands of ballot papers manually can be a mammoth task.

He added that the EVMs with the Goa government were old and many were outdated.

"When we can manage the election (with ballot paper), why should I spend another four or four crores (of rupees) on buying new machines?"

There were challenges, he said, which had to be overcome and extra preparations had to be made to make the poll by paper ballot successful in the age of the EVM.

"You have to re-orient polling personnel. They are used to machines," Modassir said.

"Had the constituencies (ZP constituencies of Goa) had 250,000 voters, had the population of Goa been, let's say, 5.5 million, I would have had no option but to go for that (EVM).

"But we have managed. We increased the number of polling booths from 950 (in 2010) to 1,208 and everything got over nicely," he said.