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ISLAMABAD: With the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) warning against introduction of any new technology as part of electoral reforms, electronic voting machines (EVMs) and biometric verification machines (BVMs) are unlikely to be used in the coming general polls.

In its separate reports on EVM and BVM pilot projects executed last year during NA-4 (Peshawar) and NA-120 (Lahore) by-polls, respectively, submitted to the National Assembly, the commission notes that it will be more appropriate and wise to keep on executing multiple pilot projects in urban and rural areas by engaging all voters of the constituencies to make the overall system robust, speedy, reliable and accurate.

The report on the EVM pilot project says the overall performance of the EVMs was not up to the satisfactory level and requires some improvements. In terms of percentage only 50 per cent machines performed successfully, or in other words half of the machines failed to perform to the desired level.

According to the reports, average time taken by a voter in using EVM was 15 seconds, while in the use of BVMs it ranged between 15 and 20 seconds. However, the reports say the enthusiasm of voters to use the machines was commendable.

Reports on pilot projects recommend such projects in several constituencies engaging all voters

The maximum area of NA-4 (Peshawar-IV) constituency consists of rural areas and suburbs of Peshawar city where most of the voters were illiterate who cast their votes by using the EVMs as well during pilot testing.

The reports read, “…as per world best practice and international standards, we may gradually increase the magnitude of the project to minimise the failure rate and increase success rate near to 100pc and this can only be possible when all the stakeholders participate with responsibility and make the whole electoral technological system near to foolproof and acceptable by all.”

The commission says it will be better if the ECP also looks for all available technologies and prototypes to be tested in mock or pilot projects to gauge the best available technology for Pakistani voters in terms of social and economical behaviour.

The ECP says that in terms of technology it is a progressive organisation striving to achieve goals by engaging all the stakeholders while keeping the world’s best practices in view and enforcing the international standards in the field of electoral technology.

The report on the BVMs says the overall performance of the machines was satisfactory and the verification in terms of percentage was 88pc considering the fact that the scale of pilot testing was too small as only 100 machines were used.

The failure or miss rate was 12pc in just 100 BV machines, which was quite a big number in terms of the very small scale. “Hypothetically speaking, if we scale up the project up to nationwide by using 300,000 BV machines then the number of failure will rise from 12pc to 20pc because as we increase the magnitude, the quality of output and performance of individual operator will certainly decrease as per world experience,” it warns.

The report points out that NA-120 Lahore III was an urban constituency comprising a large number of literate voters who used the BVMs, but if the machines are tested in rural areas then the rate of failure of biometric authentication will rise.

It says that a hefty cost will be involved in keeping the ‘quality of output’ intact in terms of imparting trainings and testing.

Published in Dawn, January 18th, 2018

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