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Old Sunday, October 03, 2021
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Default E Voting Issues


My opinion on EVM & reluctance of Election Commission of Pakistan in intriducing Pak made EVMs in haste: (Dawn 7th Sept)

THE government seems to be in haste to introduce electronic voting yemachines (EVMs) and to make the switchover from the traditional method of ballot papers. Even the concerns of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), the expert body constitutionally mandated with the responsibility of conducting fair and free elections, have not been fully paid heed to.

There are several issues related to e-voting. In the present method of balloting, the assisting presiding officer (APO) is bound to write the CNIC number of a voter on the counterfoil of the ballot paper. During the cases of election petitions, sometimes judges check votersí identity and authenticity through their CNICs written on the counterfoils and their thumb impressions taken on electoral rolls, called the voter lists. Through EVM, there is no system of checking who visited the polling station and cast the vote.

Moreover, ECP officials will not be able to justify their arguments in a court of law if the question of checking votersí authenticity arises.

An EVM is bound to reach the office of district election commissioner (DEC) and the returning officers (ROs) much before the date of polling. In case a DEC or an RO intends to manipulate the machine through a tech expert, how will the EVM explain that it has been manipulated?

In the conventional method, an APO is bound to mark the back of the ballot paper with an official code mark having special lengthy random numbers on it. This protocol is to check whether any ballot has come from the outside or not.

Only the RO knows which official code mark goes to which polling station, and at the time of receiving the election material, the presiding officer is given three to four such official code marks. These official code marks are, under the law, sealed in the polling bags and play a pivotal role in determining the authenticity of the votes.

Official code marks with special numerical on them have helped the election tribunals in deciding cases of alleged rigging at a particular polling station. It must be noted that no official code mark in the entire election process across the country has the same numbers. All the numbers of official code marks are different from the others, and even in election petitions it is seen/checked if all the ballot papers coming out from a polling bag belong to the same polling station or not. In case of EVMs, there is no such checking method in place.

Only a simple slip comes out from the machine which has the symbols and names of the candidates. In case a sharp-minded voter/candidate gets exactly the same slips printed from a private press, and carries five such slips inside the voting area, he can drop all of them in the ballot box. How will the PO be able to reject such bogus votes? There are apparently no special checks in the EVM against such a forgery.

It is only the official code mark that an APO puts on the back of a ballot paper which tells us that the vote belongs to the same polling station and has not come from the outside. The government must come up with better equipped EVMs, much stronger and more perfect than the ones the ECP has already used in its pilot projects. A simple machine that only gives out a slip containing the name and symbol of the contesting candidate is something even a layman will refuse to accept as a decider of the future of a nation.

Zaheer Sahito

Published in Dawn, September 7th, 2021
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