Indian election commission did not order paper ballots replace electronic voting machines

India’s election commission says the country will continue to use electronic voting machines in the upcoming general election, contrary to social media posts that falsely claim the machines will be ditched. The posts included a report from a newspaper in Chhattisgarh state that said the election commission had made the decision, but the paper’s editor told AFP the article was meant to be satirical.

“New guidelines issued by the Election Commission of India for Lok Sabha elections,” read part of a Hindi-language Facebook post shared on March 25, 2024.

“Commission’s new instructions: voting will be done through ballot paper and not electronic voting machines.”

Nearly a billion Indians will vote to elect the 543-member Lok Sabha — the lower house of the country’s legislature — in a six-week-long general election that starts on April 19. Electronic voting machines have been used in the polls — the largest democratic exercise in the world — since 2004 (archived link).

The post included a screenshot of an article from the Evening Times newspaper that was published on March 24 with a headline similar to the Facebook post: “Commission’s new instructions: voting will be done through ballot paper and not electronic voting machines” (archived link).

<span>Screenshot of the false Facebook post, captured on April 2, 2024</span>

Screenshot of the false Facebook post, captured on April 2, 2024

The same newspaper article was shared elsewhere on Facebook here and here, as well as on social media platform X.

It was shared after the Supreme Court rejected a petition in March 2024 asking for the upcoming elections to be carried out without electronic voting machines (archived link).

But India’s election commission did not issue new guidelines following the ruling that ordered the use of paper ballots in the upcoming general elections.

‘No directions given’

A keyword search on Google led to a post by the Election Commission of India on its verified X account that described the claim as “fake” (archived link).

The March 29 post reads: “A story was published in a local newspaper in #Chhattisgarh that #ECI has given directions for voting through ballot paper & not #EVM in #LokSabhaElection2024

“The story is completely #Fake and baseless. No such directions have been given.”

It includes a screenshot of the article shared in the false posts stamped with “Fake News” in Hindi.

An election commission official separately told AFP on April 3 that the report was “baseless” and it had not issued any such guidelines.

The official added “the newspaper that published the report later issued an apology”.

Satirical article

Nathmal Sharma, editor of the Evening Times newspaper, told AFP that, “the article was a satirical piece published during the festival of Holi and had no basis in reality.”

“It is a tradition in their area to publish satirical news during the festival”, he said on April 2.

“Some readers perceived it as real news. So, the newspaper published a clarification in its next edition to address any confusion,” Sharma added.

<span>Screenshot of the clarification published by the Evening Times that was shared with AFP</span>

Screenshot of the clarification published by the Evening Times that was shared with AFP

The article about the earlier report is titled, “There is no doubt about the trustworthiness of electronic voting machines in fair voting”.

Within the article, it says: “The news of voting using ballot papers published in the Holi issue was completely imaginary.”

AFP has debunked other misinformation related to the elections here.


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