ECI issues new protocol for handling and storage of Symbol Loading Unit

The Election Commission of India has issued a new protocol for handling and storage of the Symbol Loading Unit (SLU) in compliance with the Supreme Court’s directions, the poll watchdog said in a statement on Wednesday.

SLUs will need to be sealed and stored for 45 days after the declaration of election results. Currently, only three components of the electronic voting machine — the ballot unit, the control unit, and the VVPAT (Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail) — are stored for 45 days after the results.

SLUs are matchbox-sized devices that are used to load symbols of the candidates on the VVPAT. To do that, before polling, the SLU is first connected to a computer to load the candidates’ names, serial numbers and party symbols, and is then connected to the VVPAT to transfer the file.

On April 26, the Supreme Court dismissed petitions that demanded 100% cross-verification of votes cast on EVMs with VVPATs but directed ECI that on completion of the symbol loading process in VVPATs undertaken on or after May 1, ECI should seal and secure these units in the presence of the candidates or their representatives.

“The sealed containers, containing the symbol loading units, shall be kept in the strong room along with the EVMs at least for a period of 45 days post the declaration of results,” it said.