KARACHI: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) launched its i-voting website on Friday for 7.9 million Pakistanis living abroad to enable them to cast their votes in the upcoming by-polls.

The ECP will be holding by-elections in 37 constituencies for both national and the provincial assemblies’ seats on Oct 14. The Overseas Voting System (www.overseasvoting.gov.pk) has listed these constituencies for voting on the website’s homepage.

Overseas voters will be able to register themselves on the ECP’s website from Sept 1 to 15 in the constituencies their vote is registered in. As per the i-voting schedule, the registration period starts on Saturday (today) and will end on Sept 15. However, the voter pass — a unique pass code provided by the system to the registered voters — will be issued between Oct 10-14. Votes will be cast online from 8am till 5pm (Pakistan Time).

Online registration of voters begins today, ends on Sept 15

Only those citizens who are already registered voters in Pakistan will be able to exercise their right to franchise.

Registration process

Eligible voters must complete a two-step process for online registration.

According to the ECP rules of overseas voting, eligible voters should possess a valid National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis (NICOP), valid Machine Readable Passport (MRP), and a valid e-mail address.

The overseas Pakistani voter desirous to cast his vote shall access the Overseas Voting System through the internet and create an account using these credentials: name, email address, password of his choice, mobile phone number (optional), and his country of stay.

A confirmation email of the created account would be then forwarded by the system to the applicant at his given email address and by clicking on the link therein the voter shall be prompted to provide the number of his MRP with its tracking identity and the NICOP number along with the date of its issuance.

Once the account is successfully registered, the second verification process would be initiated wherein random questions regarding voter’s identity information would be asked by the system and upon correct reply a message of “Successfully verified” would be displayed by the system. A unique “voter pass” will be emailed to the voter by the system which he would be required to provide on polling day to be able to cast his vote.

The ECP has issued strict guidelines regarding the confidentiality of the voter pass, as voters are required to not delete the email containing the pass code and maintain its secrecy to avoid breach of vote.

Speaking to Dawn about the ECP’s measures to ensure credibility and misuse of the pass code, commission’s spokesman Nadeem Qasim said the voter pass would be issued sometime close to the polling day to minimise potential risks. “The voter pass will be issued close to the polling day so that there is little time for breach or impersonation. Even after the voter has entered the voter pass, the system will undergo another verification process to ascertain voter identity,” he maintained.

Voting procedure

On polling day, the voter shall log in to the website using his username and password and enter the voter pass emailed to him earlier. This will direct the voter to his registered national and provincial assembly constituencies to enable him to cast the vote.

A designated list of candidates of the selected constituency would then be displayed by the system and the voter shall select the election symbol of the candidate to cast his vote. Upon successful submission of the vote, a “confirmation” message would be displayed on the screen.

The ECP has also uploaded on its website separate video tutorials in Urdu and English languages as well as step-by-step help materials to guide voters through the registration and voting process.

Published in Dawn, September 1st, 2018