elections

How votes are counted in Indian elections?

The counting of votes for General Election 2019, which concluded on Sunday, will begin tomorrow, i.e., 23rd May at 8 AM.  The election was conducted in 7 phases for 543 constituencies of Lok Sabha.  The Election Commission of India (ECI) uses Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) to conduct elections. Since 2000, ECI has conducted 113 assembly elections and three general elections using EVMs.[1]  Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) system was added to EVMs in 2013 to increase transparency and improve voter confidence in the system.  The VVPAT system generates a printed paper slip bearing the name and election symbol of the candidate.  On April 8, 2019, Supreme Court instructed the ECI that printed VVPAT slips from randomly selected five polling stations in each assembly segment of a parliamentary constituency should be matched with EVMs.[2]  In this blog, we explain the election counting process in India.

Who is responsible for counting the votes?

The Returning Officer (RO) is responsible for conducting elections in a constituency, which also includes counting of votes.[3] The RO is an officer of the government or a local authority nominated by the ECI for each constituency in consultation with the state government.[4]

Where does the counting take place?

The RO decides the place where the votes will be counted for the parliamentary constituency.  The date and time of counting is fixed by the ECI.  Ideally counting of votes for a constituency should be done at one place, preferably at the Headquarter of the RO in that constituency.  It should be performed under the direct supervision of the RO.  However, each Parliamentary Constituency has multiple assembly segments.  In this situation, counting can take place at different locations for various assembly segments under the direct supervision of an Assistant Returning Officer (ARO).

Layout of the Counting Hall

Page 431, Handbook for Returning Officer Document 23 Edition 1, Election Commission of India

Counting of votes for each assembly segment of a parliamentary constituency is performed in a single hall.  In each round of counting, votes from 14 EVMs are counted.  In case of simultaneous parliamentary and assembly elections, such as Odisha, the first seven tables are used for counting votes for assembly elections, and the rest for parliamentary elections.

In constituencies with a large number of candidates, it may not be possible to count votes for all candidates in a single hall without overcrowding it.  In such a situation, the number of counting halls or tables can be increased with the prior permission of the ECI.  A hall can also be used for counting votes of another assembly segment after the results of the first segment are declared.  However, counting may be done for only one assembly segment in a hall at any point of time.

What is the counting process?

Counting is performed by counting supervisors appointed by the RO.  Counting staff is appointed through a three stage randomisation process to ensure impartiality.  Candidates along with their counting agents and election agents are also present in the counting hall.

Counting of votes begins with Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballots (ETPB) and Postal Ballots (PB). These votes are counted under the direct supervision of the RO. Counting of EVMs can start 30 minutes after the commencement of PB counting, even if all PBs have not been counted.  At the end of each round of counting, the results from 14 EVMs are declared.

What is the process for counting VVPAT slips?

The ECI prescribes the process for randomly selecting one EVM for each assembly segment of a parliamentary constituency for VVPAT matching.  The verification of VVPAT paper slips is conducted inside a secured VVPAT Counting Booth in the counting hall with access to authorised personnel only.  Any counting table in the hall can be converted into VVPAT Counting Booth after completing EVM vote counting.  Parliamentary constituencies generally have between five and ten assembly segments.

The Supreme Court has decided that VVPAT slips of five randomly selected polling stations for each assembly segment shall be matched with the result shown in the respective EVMs.  This implies that VVPAT paper slips need to be matched for about 25-50 machines for each parliamentary constituency.  This process requires personal supervision of RO/ARO.  The ECI has decided that the counting of five VVPATs will be done sequentially.[5]  The RO can declare the final result for the constituency after the VVPAT matching process has been completed.

What happens if there is a discrepancy between the VVPAT count and the EVM results?

In such a case, the printed paper slips count is taken as final. The ECI has not clarified whether there would be any further action (such as counting of all VVPATs in a constituency or assembly segment) if there is a discrepancy in the counts of one of the five VVPATs.

[1] https://www.eci.gov.in/files/file/8756-status-paper-on-evm-edition-3/.

[2] N Chandrababu Naidu and Ors. v. Union of India and Anr WP(C). 273/2019 decided on April 8, 2019.

[3] https://www.eci.gov.in/files/file/9400-hand-book-for-returning-officer-february-2019/.

[4] https://www.eci.gov.in/faqs/elections/election-machinery/faqs-election-machinery-r1/.

[5] https://www.eci.gov.in/files/file/10197-mandatory-verification-of-vvpat-paper-slips-regarding/.

Analysis of the contesting candidates in General Election 2019

The nominations for all phases of the General Election have been submitted.  We examine highlights from data on candidates who are participating in the ongoing elections.  There are 8,039 candidates contesting for 542 Parliamentary constituency seats.
 

On average, 14.8 candidates are contesting per constituency across the country.  Among all the states, Telangana has the highest average number of candidates contesting.  This is primarily due to 185 contestants from Nizamabad.  Excluding Nizamabad, the state’s average number of contestants would be 16.1.  

 

The Election Commission of India recognises parties as either national or state parties based on their performance in previous elections.  Delhi and Haryana have a high number of candidates contesting from parties that have not been recognised as either national or state parties.

After Telangana, Tamil Nadu has the highest average of independent candidates contesting in this election.  On average, of the candidates in each constituency in Tamil Nadu, two-thirds are contesting as independent candidates.  

 

After Nizamabad, the second highest number of candidate representation is seen in Belgaum, Karnataka.  The five constituencies that have the highest candidate representation are from the southern states of Telangana, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu.    

 

The Bharatiya Janata Party and Congress are contesting 435 and 420 seats respectively.  In 373 seats they are in competition with each other.  BSP has the third highest number of candidates contesting in this election.

The seven national parties together fielded 2.69 candidates per constituency.  Among the largest five states, West Bengal has the highest representation of candidates from national parties, at 4.6.  In that state, candidates from five national parties are contesting.

Recognised state parties, together, fielded 1.53 candidates per constituency.  Bihar (6 state parties) and Tamil Nadu (8 state parties) see a high representation of candidates from state parties, at 1.2 and 1.3 respectively.

Largest states are ones with more than 30 Parliamentary constituency seats: Uttar Pradesh (80), Maharashtra (48), West Bengal (42), Bihar (40), and Tamil Nadu (39).  These states together have 249 seats i.e., 46% of Lok Sabha.

For these five states, the number of seats being contested by national and state parties is shown in the figures below.  

This analysis is based on the candidate list available on the Election Commission website (eci.gov.in) on May 8, 2019.

Paid News in the spotlight

The issue of paid news has been debated for a long time, most recently during the 2012 Gujarat assembly elections, the Jindal Steel-Zee News dispute and disqualification of a sitting UP MLA by the Election Commission of India (ECI) in October 2011.  The Standing Committee on Information Technology recently submitted its report on the “Issues Related to Paid News”.  The report discusses the definition of paid news, reasons for its proliferation, existing mechanisms to address the problem and recommendations to control it. Need for comprehensive definition of paid news The Press Council of India (PCI) defines paid news as any news or analysis appearing in print or electronic media for consideration in cash or kind.  The Committee acknowledged challenges in defining and establishing incidence of paid news, citing new manifestations like advertisements disguised as news, denial of coverage to select electoral candidates, private deals between media houses and corporates and the rise in paid content.  Hence, it asked the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MoIB) to formulate a comprehensive legal definition of ‘paid news’ and suggest measures for usage of ‘circumstantial evidence’ in establishing incidence of  paid news. Reasons for rise in incidence of paid news The Committee identified corporatisation of media, desegregation of ownership and editorial roles, decline in autonomy of editors/journalists and poor wage levels of journalists as key reasons for the rise in incidence of paid news.  It urged the MoIB to ensure periodic review of the editor/journalist autonomy and wage conditions.  It also recommended mandatory disclosure of ‘private treaties’ and details of advertising revenue by the media houses. Need for empowered regulators and stricter punitive provisions The Committee observed that statutory regulators like the PCI and Electronic Media Monitoring Centre (EMMC) lack adequate punitive powers while self-regulatory industry bodies like the News Broadcasting Standards Authority have even failed to take cognisance of the problem.  The PCI and self-regulatory bodies are also plagued by conflict of interest since a majority of their members are media-owners. The Committee recommended the establishment of either a single regulatory body for both print and electronic media or setting-up a statutory body for the electronic media on the lines of the PCI. Such regulator(s) should have the power to take strong action against offenders and should not include media owners as members. It highlighted the need for stricter punitive provisions to control paid news and sought further empowerment of the ECI to deal with cases of paid news during elections. Committee critical of government’s inaction The Committee censured the MoIB for its failure to establish a strong mechanism to check the spread of paid news.  It criticised the government for dithering on important policy initiatives, citing the lack of action on various recommendations of the PCI and ECI.  Previously, the PCI had sought amendments to make its directions binding on the government authorities and to bring the electronic media under its purview.  Similarly, the ECI recommended inclusion of indulgence by an electoral candidate in paid news as a corrupt practice and publication of such paid news as an electoral offence.  The Committee also expressed concern that the MoIB and self-regulatory bodies have not conducted any study to evaluate the mechanism adopted by other countries to tackle the problem of paid news. For a PRS summary of the Standing Committee Report, see here.

Karnataka: Election trends and Assembly performance

Elections to the 14th Legislative Assembly of Karnataka are scheduled to be held on May 5, 2013. Of the 224 assembly constituencies that will go into polls, 36 are reserved for Scheduled Castes and 15 for Scheduled Tribes. Voting will take place in 50,446 polling stations across Karnataka [1.  Election Commission India]. In this blog, we analyse electoral trends between 1989 and 2008 and the performance of the current Karnataka Assembly.

Figure 1: Electoral trends since 1989, source: Election Commission of India, PRS.

 

In the last elections, held in 2008, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) formed the government, winning 110 of the 226 seats in the Assembly. The BJP has steadily increased its seat share since 1989: it won four seats in 1989, 44 in 1999 and 79 in 2004. The Indian National Congress (INC) had a 179 seat majority in 1989 (79% of the assembly) which fell to 34 seats in 1994. The INC subsequently increased their tally from 65 seats in 2004 to 80 seats in 2008. However, the INC continued to have the highest share of votes polled (except in 1994) even as its share of seats decreased. The 1990s also saw the emergence of the Janata Dal (S) who won the 1994 elections with 115 seats. Janata Dal’s emergence is part of a broader theme of increased participation by regional parties in Karnataka. In 1989, 20 parties contested the elections, seven of which were national parties but in 2008, 30 parties contested, of which only five were national parties. Performance of the current Assembly As we approach the end of the term of the current Assembly, a brief look at its work from 2008 to 2013:

  • During its five-year-term, the Assembly sat for a total of 144 days, an average of 31 days each year. In comparison, the Lok Sabha in its current term sat for an average of 68 days per year. Among states, the Kerala Assembly sat for an average of 50 days, Haryana for 13 days and Rajasthan for 24 days, each year.
    Figure 2: Days of sitting - Karnataka assembly, source: RTI, PRS.

     

  •  Members of the Karnataka Assembly recorded an average attendance of 81 per cent for the whole term, broadly in line with the Lok Sabha attendance of 77 per cent. Nearly one in five members registered more than 90 per cent attendance. In comparison, members of the 11th Himachal Pradesh Assembly recorded an attendance of 95 per cent, while the attendance of the 12th Gujarat Assembly stood at 83 per cent.
  • Some of the significant Bills passed by the 14th Karnataka Assembly include the Karnataka Guarantee of Services to Citizens Bill and the Karnataka Ground Water (Regulation and Control of Development and Management) Bill.  In 2012, the Assembly also passed the Karnataka Prevention of Cow Slaughter and Preservation Bill.

Brief overview of the performance of the 12th Gujarat Legislative Assembly

Elections to the 13th Legislative Assembly of Gujarat are scheduled to be held in two phases on the 13th and 17th of December.  The BJP has been the dominant majority party in the Assembly since 1995.  The 2002 elections saw the largest victory for the party, winning 127 seats. The Congress last held power in Gujarat in 1985.  In the Assembly elections held for the the seventh Assembly, the Congress had a clear majority of 149 seats.  In 1990, the Janata Dal emerged as the largest party with 70 seats.  The BJP registered major gains in 1990, improving their tally of 11 seats in 1985 to 67 seats.  The Congress came third with 33 seats. The electoral trends over the last 22 years may be viewed here. In the current Assembly, 117 of the 182 seats are held by the BJP.  It is useful to look at the work done by the 12th Gujarat Assembly during its term from 2008 to 2012.  Here we look at key metrics like the number of days the assembly was in session, members’ attendance, and legislative business. Performance of the Assembly During its five year term, the assembly sat for a total of 157 days – an average of 31 days each year.  In comparison, the Lok Sabha sat for an average of 66 days each year during the period 2008 to 2011.  In the same period the Kerala Assembly sat for an average of 50 days – highest among states - followed by Maharashtra (44).  However, the Gujarat Assembly sat for more number of days than the Haryana Assembly which sat for an average of 13 days and Rajasthan (24). The average attendance among Gujarat MLAs stood at 83% for the whole term, with two members registering 100% attendance. 87 Bills were passed by the Assembly since the beginning of its term in 2008 till September 2011.  Of these, 80 Bills i.e. over 90% of all Bills were passed on the same day as they were introduced.  None of the Bills were referred to any Committee.  In the Budget Session of 2011, 31 Bills were passed of which 21 were introduced and passed within three sitting days Amendments sought by the President and the Governor One of the significant laws passed by the 12th Assembly was the Gujarat Control of Terrorism and Organised Crime Bill, 2003 which was introduced and passed in July 2009.  However the Bill did not receive the Presidents Assent and was sent back to the Gujarat Assembly for amendments. In December 2009, the assembly passed the Gujarat Local Authorities Laws (Amendment) Bill 2009 which sought to make voting compulsory in elections to local self-government bodies like municipal corporations and Panchayats.  The Gujarat governor returned the Bill for reconsideration in 2010.  It was re-introduced in the house in September 2010 without changes. Another Bill that was returned by the Governor was the Gujarat Regularisation of Unauthorised Development Bill which sought to regularise unauthorised construction on payment of an Impact Fee.  The Bill was passed by the Assembly in March 2011.  The Governor returned the Bill with a suggestion to include a provision to bar the regularisation of unauthorised construction beyond a specified date.  The Bill was re-introduced and passed with amendments by the Assembly in September 2011.

Presidential elections: The race heats up!

The Election Commission has announced the schedule for the election of the President of India.  The last date for nominations is June 30, elections will be held on July 19, and counting will take place on July 22.  The BJD and AIADMK have proposed the name of Mr. P.A. Sangma.  The Samajwadi Party and Trinamool Congress have suggested three names.  Other parties or alliances have not announced any contenders.  Our calculations show that no single party or alliance has the numbers to unilaterally elect candidates of its choice. A candidate will need 5,48,507 votes to be elected as the President.  If the UPA were to vote as a consolidated block, its vote tally would reach 4,49,847 (41% of the total votes).  Among the Congress allies, Trinamool holds the largest number of votes (47,898). If Trinamool decides to support some other candidate, the UPA tally will fall to 4,01,949 votes (37% of the total). The votes held by the major alliances are given in the table below:

Coalition Value of votes Percentage of total votes
UPA

4,49,847

41.0%

NDA

3,03,912

27.7%

Left

52,282

4.8%

Bahujan Samaj Party

43,723

4.0%

Samajwadi Party

68,943

6.3%

Biju Janata Dal

30,215

2.8%

AIADMK

36,216

3.3%

Others

1,11,874

10.2%

Total

10,97,012

 
Minimum required to be elected

5,48,507

 

  A detailed break-up of votes held by each party is given in the table below:

Party Value of votes Percentage of total votes
Indian National Congress

3,31,855

30.30%

Bharatiya Janata Party

2,32,454

21.20%

Samajwadi Party

68,943

6.30%

All India Trinamool Congress

47,898

4.40%

Bahujan Samaj Party

43,723

4.00%

Janata Dal (United)

41,574

3.80%

All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK)

36,216

3.30%

Communist Party of India (Marxist)

35,734

3.30%

Biju Janata Dal

30,215

2.80%

Nationalist Congress Party

24,058

2.20%

Independent

23,830

2.20%

Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK)

21,780

2.00%

Telugu Desam Party

21,256

1.90%

Shiv Sena

18,320

1.70%

Shiromani Akali Dal

11,564

1.10%

Communist Party of India

9,758

0.90%

Rashtriya Janata Dal

8,816

0.80%

Others

7,420

0.70%

Janata Dal (Secular)

6,138

0.60%

Jammu and Kashmir National Conference

5,556

0.50%

Rashtriya Lok Dal

5,412

0.50%

Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhaga (DMDK)

5,104

0.50%

Jharkhand Mukti Morcha

4,584

0.40%

Muslim League Kerala State Committee

4,456

0.40%

Indian National Lok Dal

4,068

0.40%

All India Forward Bloc

3,961

0.40%

Jharkhand Vikas Morcha

3,352

0.30%

Asom Gana Parishad

3,284

0.30%

Telangana Rashtra Samiti

3,044

0.30%

Revolutionary Socialist Party

2,829

0.30%

Bodoland People's Front

2,808

0.30%

All India United Democratic Front

2,796

0.30%

Praja Rajyam Party

2,664

0.20%

Maharashtra Navnirman Sena

2,275

0.20%

Kerala Congress (M)

2,076

0.20%

All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen

1,744

0.20%

Nagaland People's Front

1,722

0.20%

Sikkim Democratic Front

1,640

0.10%

Peoples Democratic Party

1,512

0.10%

Bahujan Vikas Aaghadi

1,058

0.10%

Lok Janasakti Party

957

0.10%

All Jharkhand Students Union

880

0.10%

Haryana Janhit Congress

820

0.10%

Mizo National Front

732

0.10%

Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam

708

0.10%

Swabhimani Paksha

708

0.10%

Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi

708

0.10%

YSR Congress Party

708

0.10%

Peasants and Workers Party

700

0.10%

Pattali Makkal Katchi

528

0.00%

Manithaneya Makkal Katch

352

0.00%

Puthiya Tamilaga

352

0.00%

All India NR Congress

240

0.00%

J&K National Panthers Party

216

0.00%

Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist)

176

0.00%

United Democratic Party

153

0.00%

Lok Satta Party

148

0.00%

Loktantrik Samajwadi Party

129

0.00%

J&K Democratic Party Nationalist

72

0.00%

People's Democratic Front

72

0.00%

Uttarakhand Kranti Dal

64

0.00%

Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party

60

0.00%

People's Party of Arunachal

32

0.00%

Total

10,97,012

 

Notes: The electoral  college for the Presidential election consists of the elected members of Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha and all Legislative Assemblies. The winning candidate must secure at least 50% of the total value of votes polled.  Each MP/ MLA’s vote has a pre-determined value based on the population they represent. For instance, an MP’s vote has a value of 708, an MLA from UP has a vote value of 208 and an MLA from Sikkim has a vote value of 7 (Note that all MPs, irrespective of the constituency or State they represent, have equal vote value). Parties in various coalitions: UPA: Congress, Trinamool, DMK, NCP,Rashtriya Lok Dal, J&K National Conference, Muslim League Kerala State Committee, Kerala Congress (M), All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, Sikkim Democratic Front, Praja Rajyam Party, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi NDA: BJP, JD(U), Shiv Sena, Shiromani Akali Dal, Janata Party Left: CPI(M), CPI, Revolutionary Socialist Party, All India Forward Bloc