EVM suggestions

Published December 1, 2021

THIS refers to the editorial ‘Supporting ECP’ (Nov 27), which has discussed the most important and sensitive issue of the recently bulldozed bill on electronic voting machines (EVMs) that was opposed by the opposition and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

Any machine is subject to failure due to technical faults that can be rectified, but self-generated faults cannot be rectified as we witnessed during the last elections when the results transmission system (RTS) machines developed ‘faults’ and made a mockery of the whole system.

Since both the ECP and the opposition have rejected these machines, election results will end up in a series of never-ending allegations related to manipulations and ‘faults’ in the EVMs. Since it has now become law, therefore, there is no escape from this machine, controversial though it may be.

However, if some measures are taken, it will help all the stakeholders to be on one page, and the chances of bogus voting can be minimised.

The major objection by the ECP had a lot of weight when it said the EVMs are not user-friendly. In Pakistan, every election becomes controversial, and, therefore, a foolproof voting system is needed to satisfy the stakeholders.

Since it is the sole authority and responsibility of the ECP to conduct the elections, it is vital that the commission is satisfied about the mode of voting, and the government cannot thrust its decision arbitrarily, and nobody can give a dictation in this regard.

The biggest drawbacks in the EVMs are: there is no secrecy of ballot because the button will be pressed in the presence of the polling officer; the voter may push more than one button; there is no check on the number of voters; and, lastly, the ballot paper is very thin, like we see being used in ATM machines, and it will take days to count that small paper.

The whole procedure sounds time-consuming, and it is not known what precautions can be taken in case of EVM malfunction. There is a way, however, to check bogus voting and counting fraud.

I would suggest that all ballot papers should have serial numbers and each polling station should start with serial number 01. At the first step, the voter’s name should be checked from the voters list, and the moment it is verified, it should start displaying the number on the counter.

Before pressing the button, the voter should be required to swipe his/her CNIC and, again, the number should appear on the counter. It then should be blocked for the next 24 hours.

The counter should be displayed on the wall where updated data should be available. This method will have three checks to ensure there is no bogus voting; the total votes cast can be checked from voters list; serial numbers on the ballot paper; and the total displayed on the counters whenever a CNIC is swiped.

Readings on the counter must tally and display the same number. Let the EVMs be modified to contain these three counters. It is hoped that the ECP will ensure these counters and would conduct mock trials before arriving at a decision.

Lt-Col (retd) Mukhtar Ahmed Butt
Karachi

Published in Dawn, December 1st, 2021

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