ECP Purchasing More Electronic Voting Machines Soon

Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is planning to buy more electronic voting machines (EVMs). The information was revealed by Zahid Hamid, Federal Minister for Climate Change, while talking to reporters. He said that the voting machines will be purchased before December this year.

Zahid Hamid was presiding the meeting for Parliamentary Electoral Reforms Committee. The decision was made during the meeting, he said. EVMs will be purchased before December this year and will be used for future by-elections. The Minister also informed the media that ECP will soon announce a tender to purchase the voting machines.

PTI Chairman, Imran Khan, called for EVMs to be used in the 2013 elections. His petition was not accepted at the time, but the country-wide protests in 2013 elections forced the ECP to test the method. Immediately after the elections, it was clear that a much more efficient, cost effective and robust voting system was necessary for a country like Pakistan. Propakistani discussed on the merits and disadvantages that the system might bring.

Back in August, ECP held the first pilot trials of the EVMs during elections in NA-19, Haripur. The machines were deployed in 60 polling booths across 30 polling stations with 37,924 registered voters.

ECP published a report on the efficiency of the EVMs. The machines verified 46 percent of the voters who tried to vote while failing on the rest of the 54 percent. 15,723 votes were cast and turnout in the areas where the machines were placed was far less than the overall turnout in the by-elections.

The relatively poor performance of the biometric system in the by-elections was caused by half-hearted interest from both, ECP and NADRA. Even in the ECP’s report, it clearly says that the reason for such a lacklustre performance was due to NADRA’s inability to provide with fingerprint data or people using old CNICs. It’s even stranger why NADRA failed to provide this data, because the same system worked almost flawlessly during the biometric SIM verification process. ECP needs to make sure not to employ incomplete and underequipped experiments in order to prevent negative publicity surrounding latest technologies.

Not so long ago, DG ECP said that EVMs are prone to hacking and manipulation via Bluetooth and other simple methods. He was clearly misinformed, as EVMs are being used in countries across the globe. USA, Australia, Canada are among the few countries which have switched over to EVMs. Even India has been using them since 1999.

Of course, one thing to note here is that the government should order EVMs with encrypted storage and the latest verification methods so that hacking and manipulation is not possible. The latest machines make use of “paper trails”, meaning the machines print a paper with a physical proof of each vote and voter’s presence. If the ECP plans to order machines from the 90s, it would have almost no advantage other than eliminating unverified votes. Latest EVMs with proper validation methods should be purchased if ECP is serious about ending election rigging and the drama which surrounds it after every election.

He is the Editor at ProPakistani. Reach him at [email protected]