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Is EC Misleading Public On How EVM Votes Polled Data Is Compiled?

Firstly, Election Commission did not take 2-3 months to upload EVM votes polled data in the Lok Sabha Election 2014.

Updated
India
6 min read
Is the Election Commission’s recent press release on the discrepancies in the EVM votes polled and counted data misleading?
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After The Quint’s article, published on 31 May, pointed out discrepancies in the EVM votes polled and votes counted data in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Election Commission of India (EC) issued a press release on their website on 1 June. The release was not a rebuttal to The Quint’s article, rather a generic statement explaining how the EC compiles EVM votes polled data during elections.

When we examined the EC’s press release, we found that some of the information was less than convincing.

No, EC Did Not Take 2-3 Months To Compile Vote Polled Data In LS Election 2014

“In 2014, it took between 2 to 3 months after the declaration of results to collect and collate such data in authenticated form,” said the EC’s press release. When we checked, we found that EVM votes polled data existed on the EC’s website by 25 May 2014, while the results were declared on 16 May 2014 – that’s a period of nine days, not two-three months.

Excerpts from the Election Commission’s press release
Excerpts from the Election Commission’s press release
(Image: Arnica Kala/The Quint)

Earlier, in 2014 the EC website’s address was eci.nic.in. It was later changed to the current website address eci.gov.in. Since we can’t access the old website, we tried to access documents through archives.

We found that on 25 May 2014, a data set was archived from EC’s old website which said, ‘Parliamentary Constituency wise Turnout for General Election - 2014’. Since the data was archived on 25 May, it is likely that EC had uploaded this data before this date – so likely even less than a 9-day gap.

Screenshot of the archived <a href="https://web.archive.org/web/20140525214134/http://eci.nic.in/eci_main1/GE2014/PC_WISE_TURNOUT.htm">votes polled data</a> of the Lok Sabha Election 2014.&nbsp;
Screenshot of the archived votes polled data of the Lok Sabha Election 2014. 
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When we cross checked the 25 May voter turnout data of LS election 2014 with the voter turnout data available on the EC website, we found that there wasn’t any discrepancy between the two sets of data.

This proves that for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the EC had uploaded the voter turnout data prior to 25 May which did not change thereafter.

What Happened to the ‘Innovative IT Initiative’?

In the press release, EC has admitted that in comparison to 2014, they have used “innovative IT initiatives” in the Lok Sabha election 2019. Then why are they unable to upload the voter turnout data weeks after the results have been announced? 

Not just that, in this election, to make the voter turnout data instantly available to the candidates and public, EC introduced an app which was updated by the Returning Officers on election duty. Interestingly, the data available on the app and the EC’s website never matched.

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Do you know that EVMs have two buttons that show the number of EVM votes recorded: the ‘Result’ button and the ‘Total’ button.

Both show the total number of votes recorded in the EVM’s Control Unit. The difference between the two are: the ‘Total’ button will show only the total number of votes polled in the EVM, while the ‘Result’ button will not only give the total number of votes polled in the EVM, but also number of votes polled to each candidate.

This is an important feature of an EVM machine to help the officer on election duty to record the number of votes polled in the EVM after the polling is over. This is how we get to know the voter turnout numbers or percentage at the end of the polling day.

<a href="https://eci.gov.in/faqs/evm/general-qa/electronic-voting-machine-r2/">Election Commission’s FAQs</a>
Election Commission’s FAQs
Screenshot from EC’s website

Not just this, it is the duty of the Presiding Officer to record the voter turnout every two hours on the polling day and inform her/his seniors. And at the end of the polling day, the Presiding Officer records the EVM votes polled data in Form 17C and gets it signed by the polling agents.

This means that on the day of polling, the officer on election duty records and does complete documentation of the number of votes polled in EVMs.
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The process of recording the number of votes polled is done meticulously because on the day of counting, the number of votes polled is tallied with the number of votes counted. And if any discrepancy is found between the two sets of data, then it is the duty of the election officer to inform the Counting Agents.

Above is the screenshot from the <a href="https://eci.gov.in/faqs/evm/general-qa/electronic-voting-machine-r2/">EC’s website</a> on “ruling out the possibility of recording” of surplus votes in EVMs.
Above is the screenshot from the EC’s website on “ruling out the possibility of recording” of surplus votes in EVMs.
Screenshot from EC’s website

Now, the EC website itself clarifies that the EVM votes polled data is recorded and shared on EC’s website and app by the duty officer on the polling day. And the polled data is also tallied on the counting day.

The question is – over two weeks have passed by since the Lok Sabha 2019 election results were declared. Then why is EC still uploading “provisional and estimated” vote polled data? Why are they taking so long to compile the data?

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EC Has Changed the EVM Votes Polled Data 4 Times In a Month

First Data Was Uploaded Before 11 May

The final voter turnout data of the first four phases was downloaded by The Quint on 11 May, which means that EC must have uploaded this data sometime before this date.

Above is the final EVM votes polled data which was accessed on 11 May.&nbsp;
Above is the final EVM votes polled data which was accessed on 11 May. 
(Screenshot of EC’s data)

This particular data was elaborate and gave the absolute number of votes polled state-wise in each Parliamentary constituency in phases 1, 2, 3 and 4. Below is the screenshot of the votes polled data of phase 4.

Above is the screenshot of the document which was accessed from the ticker mentioning “final voter turnout phases 1,2,3 and 4”. As mentioned, the EC compiled the above data on 4 May.
Above is the screenshot of the document which was accessed from the ticker mentioning “final voter turnout phases 1,2,3 and 4”. As mentioned, the EC compiled the above data on 4 May.
(Screenshot of EC’s data)

In the above data, the EC compared the EVM votes polled data of each Parliamentary constituency of Lok Sabha election 2019 with 2014 data. It also mentioned the number of electors in each constituency.

Nowhere in the data did the EC mention that this was provisional data.

Hence, based on this data, The Quint published an article after the results were declared, comparing votes polled and counted data in each constituency.

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Second Data Was Uploaded Before 25 May

Above is the final EVM votes polled data which was accessed on 25 May.&nbsp;
Above is the final EVM votes polled data which was accessed on 25 May. 
(Screenshot of EC’s data)

On 22 May, the EC uploaded another data set which said “Final voter turnout of Phase 1 to 7”. But this data was shrunk into total votes polled per State in each phase.

The question is – why did the EC not give the votes polled number of each Parliamentary constituency when it is available with them, which they had earlier uploaded?
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Third Data Was Uploaded Before 3 June

Above is the final EVM votes polled data which was accessed on 3 June.&nbsp;
Above is the final EVM votes polled data which was accessed on 3 June. 
(Screenshot of EC’s data)

After several media reports, the EC continued to title the 22 May data as ‘Final Voter turnout of Phases 1 to 7” but added a line at the bottom saying “provisional estimated data”.

When we compared the data downloaded on 25 May with the data downloaded on 3 June, we found no difference between the two sets of data. Then why did the EC suddenly tag the second data set as provisional data?

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Current EVM Votes Polled Data

Above is the final EVM votes polled data currently available on the website. &nbsp;
Above is the final EVM votes polled data currently available on the website.  
(Screenshot of EC’s data)

Instead of providing elaborate and transparent constituency-wise data, the EC has now uploaded one consolidated numbers/percentage data set for each state for all phases. In the above screenshot, you can see that the EC is saying “provisional phase wise polling day voter turnout data has been replaced and data recorded with official documents as per prescribed procedure is posted”, which clearly means final data.

But when we downloaded the data, it still said ‘provisional’, as you can see below.

Is EC Misleading  Public On How EVM Votes Polled Data Is Compiled?
(Screenshot of EC’s data)

The consolidated numbers can be calculated only by summing Parliamentary constituency-level data. Then why did EC choose to upload state-wise consolidated data, rather than constituency-wise segregated data?

Instead of being transparent, the EC’s EVM votes polled data is getting more opaque with each subsequent data set – why? Why can’t EC upload the votes polled data once when they have finalised the data from all sources, instead of changing it several times? Why EC has not uploaded the VVPATs count data?

We have written to the EC asking them all the questions mentioned in the article. We will update the article as and when they respond.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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