New Delhi: The VVPAT (voter verifiable paper audit trail) slips will be counted in each and every polling station in Gujarat in a mock poll on Saturday, an hour before the actual poll, in 89 constituencies. The exercise will be repeated in remaining 93 constituencies on Thursday.

The Election Commission on Friday announced the mock drill to check the system even while not heeding the Congress demand for counting all paper slips on December 18.

On the day of counting, a mandatory count of the VVPAT paper slips will be carried out by randomly selecting one polling station per Assembly constituency “on a pilot basis” for greater transparency and credibility of the election process, the official said. The same drill will be followed in Himachal Pradesh whose votes will also be counted on December 18.

This will mean a mandatory verification of 182 polling stations in Gujarat and 68 polling stations in Himachal Pradesh. The presiding officers have been asked to conduct the mock poll at every polling station by casting at least 50 votes and then ascertaining whether the EVM result tallies with the counting of the paper slips; this will be done in the presence of the polling agents.

All mock poll data will be removed to let the polling agents verify the empty VVPAT drop boxes. The mock poll slips will be stamped on the back with inscription “MOCK POLL SLIP” and sealed in a thick black paper envelop.

An EC official said the polling will begin only after the polling agents of the parties are satisfied with the mock drill results. The EC is involving the polling agents of the parties, who are the stakeholders in the election, at every stage of the EVM and VVPAT activities.

The EVMs and VVPAT machines were kept in a strong room under round-the-clock security and CCTV coverage and they were twice randomized, first while allotting them to a constituency and second time while allotting them to a polling station, both in the presence of agents of the candidates.