High number of VVPATs malfunction in UP, Maharashtra; polling slowed

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New Delhi, May 28 (IANS) An unusually high number of voter verifiable paper audit trail machines, or VVPATs, malfunctioned during the by-polls on Monday on Uttar Pradeshs Kairana and Maharshtras Bhandara-Gondia and Palghar parliamentary constituencies, resulting in long delays in polling at several places.

A total of 1,073 VVPATs malfunctioned cumulatively in three Lok Sabha constituencies and the Noorpur assembly constituency of Uttar Pradesh and had to be replaced, official data showed.

In Maharashtra, on the Bhandara-Gondia parliamentary seat, 413 VVPATs (19.22 per cent of the total machines) besides 43 EVMs and 32 control units malfunctioned at various places. On Palghar parliamentary seat, 276 (13.16 per cent) VVPATs had to be replaced after they malfunctioned.

In Uttar Pradesh’s Kairana, 355 VVPATs (20.82 per cent) were reported malfunctioning which needed to be changed. In Noorpur, 29 paper trail machines (8.25 per cent) had to be replaced due to malfunctioning.

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The EC attributed the reasons for such high number of VVPAT malfunctioning to “first time use by polling staff, extreme heat, exposure of machines to direct sun and mishandling during use”.

It said that while the polling staff have developed “expertise” in managing the electronic voting machines (EVMs), they were not well-versed with the use of VVPATs.

The glitches led to delays in polling and very slow polling. Hundreds of voters patiently waited to cast their votes in the blistering heat as the EVMs were replaced.

In Kairana, where BJP is locked in an intense fight with combined opposition including the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), Samajwadi Party (SP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Congress, the polling percentage was 54.17 per cent till 6 pm. In the Noorpur assembly segment of the state, the polling percentage was 61 percent till 6 pm.

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In Maharashtra, about 40 per cent polling was estimated till 6 pm in the Bhandara-Gondiya parliamentary constituency. In Palghar, the polling percentage was around 47 per cent till 6 pm.

The final polling percentage from the two states was not out till 10 p.m. on Monday.

The opposition smelt a rat in the malfunctioning of the machines and slowed down polling.

A joint delegation of RLD, SP and Congress representatives met EC here and brought to the notice of the Commission concerns about malfunctioning of VVPAT machines. A BJP delegation too met the EC separately in the day.

–IANS

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