Former Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi on Friday said that 100% of the Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail slips should be verified as part of the vote counting process.

Quraishi’s comment, in a social media post, comes just months ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

The Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail is an independent verification system for electronic voting machines. The process allows voters to check if their votes have been cast correctly.

The system is useful in detecting possible election fraud or malfunctioning of the voting machines. The slips that the VVPAT machines generate can be used to audit voting data stored electronically. The slips are not handed over to the voters, but collected in a separate box.

Currently, slips from only five randomly selected polling stations in each Assembly segment are verified. This is done after the final round of counting of votes, recorded in the electronic voting machines, has concluded.

“[Counting all VVPAT slips] won’t take more than a day,” Quraishi wrote on social media platform X. “But [this will] restore people’s confidence. That’s essential for credible elections.”

The former election commissioner was responding to a question by a social media user who asked if it would be viable for voters to deposit their VVPAT slips into ballot boxes at the time of voting, and for these slips to be counted later to corroborate the data from the electronic voting machines.

On December 19, the Opposition Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance had adopted a resolution that sought 100% of the VVPAT slips be counted as part of the verification process.

“Our suggestion is simple: Instead of the voter-verified paper audit trail slip falling in the box, it should be handed over to the voter who shall then place it in a separate ballot box after having verified his or her choice,” the Opposition alliance said in its resolution. “One hundred percent counting of VVPAT slips should then be done.”

On December 3, Quraishi had written in The Telegraph that there is a “need for serious affirmative action” by the polling body to assuage doubts that have been raised about India’s electronic voting system.

“EVMs have been in use since 1998...If the machines were hackable, the government under which the machines were first made would not have lost elections at all,” Quraishi wrote. “Most notably, the mighty ruling party, the BJP, lost just a few months ago in Karnataka and Himachal Pradesh and, earlier, in West Bengal, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. Can there be better proof?”

Despite this, the former election commissioner said, public mistrust in the veracity of electronic voting machines has been “dangerously increasing”. He suggested that the election commission call an all-party meeting and arrive at a consensus on how to rebuild public trust.

“As a last resort, even if [100%] has to be counted to gain public trust, they [the election commission] should consider it,” he wrote. “How does it matter if it takes a few extra hours or even a day? After all, the nation waits for counting for over two months from the first day [phase] of [the] poll.”

In May 2019, the Supreme Court dismissed a petition seeking 100% verification of the Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail slips with results from the electronic voting machines during the counting of votes for the Lok Sabha elections that month.