The secrecy of the ballot is an integral, almost sacred, element of voting. And just as the controversy over the tampering of EVMs in the Legislative Assembly elections held earlier this year is being laid to rest by the Election Commission, the recent panchayat elections have thrown up a debate of their own. According to critics, the use of ballot paper could lead to a serious breach of secrecy simply because it is possible to track each ‘secret ballot’ to the voter who cast it thanks to the individually numbered ballot paper issued to each elector and the corresponding counterfoil containing the voter’s signature as well as serial number retained by the presiding poll officer. The measure is thought to be justified so that if there is an allegation of fraud, false ballot papers can
be easily identified.
What this, however, also means is that the secrecy of the ballot is not guaranteed. All one needs to do is gain access to the counterfoils and match each one with the ballots cast while comparing the serial number with the voter’s list. Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it. But what about the practicalities of the process? For starters, all counterfoils are locked securely away before the ballot boxes are opened at the count. Second, one would actually have to get one’s hands on all three aspects – the ballot paper, counterfoils, voter’s list– to accurately track who voted for whom. Easier said than done?