How can Bangladesh ensure a free and fair election using Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs)? – OpEd – Eurasia Review

The use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) is currently a hot topic of discussion in the political arena of Bangladesh. Some renowned experts from Bangladesh are of the opinion that it is almost impossible to manipulate EVMs. Therefore, it is not appropriate to object to voting by this means.

Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), which will be used in 150 constituencies in the upcoming 2023 national polls in line with the Electoral Commission (EC) roadmap, are secure and cannot be tampered with to rig votes, say some experts allaying fears of manipulation of the device.

On February 1 (2020), a positive change in the conduct of elections in Bangladesh was initiated through the use of EVMs in the elections of the two municipalities of Dhaka. The current Electoral Commission (EC) has announced the decision to use the “Electronic Voting Machine” (EVM) in at least one hundred seats in the elections for the 11th National Assembly held in the last week of December 2018 Then ruling Awami League leaders and civil society representatives came out in favor of the issue. On the other hand, leaders of some opposition parties in Bangladesh have described the use of EVMs as far-reaching. Various debates on the issue have accumulated in the media.

To dispel myths about the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in elections, the Electoral Commission (EC) will launch a major campaign as soon as possible. The campaign will be promoted by the commission through radio, television, mosques and religious institutions.

According to the media, the director of the EVM project, Colonel Rakib, was put in charge of the TVC (commercial television). “In addition to TVC, we will also use newspapers, Facebook, mosques and temples to promote the campaign. We will do a campaign later in educational institutions. This is a comprehensive program,” he said.

A project plan of Tk 87.11 billion has been finalized by the EC to purchase around 200,000 EVMs and service the older ones before the 12th national parliamentary election in 2018. In the upcoming parliamentary elections, they opted to use electronic voting machines in no more than 150 seats.

With the 150,000 EVMs it has today, the commission can organize elections in 70 to 80 constituencies. To organize elections with more seats, the EC must buy new EVMs. Between November 2023 and January 2024, 300 constituencies will vote in the 12th general election. He continued, “They will work on the issue so that the public gets a thorough understanding of EVM and the voting process, and then they will set up the promotion of the topic.”

Especially before the announcement of the schedule in October 2018, whether to play with EVMs, or if it has been said that the EC is not ready or able to use EVMs on a large scale. The use of EVMs will require an amendment to the People’s Representation Order (RPO), etc. However, the Electoral Commission has already made all its preparations for the municipal elections and has successfully used the EVMs. In 2018 itself, an initiative was taken to purchase one and 50,000 EVMs at a cost of 3,829 crore Bangladeshi Tk Taka.

Although at that time 2,64,000 EVMs were needed in 300 seats where 2 lakh 20,000 voting booths were estimated. However, 132,000,000 EVMs were needed for 150 seats. And there were 14,600 or more voting booths in about 2,600 centers in Dhaka North and South City. Around 35,000 EVMs were used in the two municipal elections. Two members of the armed forces were deployed to each center to provide technical support and the last mock vote took place on 28 January.

Bearing in mind the EC action plan announced in July 2017, we want to consider positively the plan to use EVMs in national elections. Recall that under the current government in Bangladesh since 2010 various experiments have been launched with this EVM by using it in certain centers during various elections. The Electoral Commission has also used EVMs in recent elections in Gazipur, Barisal, Rajshahi and Sylhet City Corporation. For example, in the Barisal City Corporation elections, voters voted through electronic voting machines in 78 voting booths in 11 centers in 4 wards.

Prior to this, the voting process was completed by an electronic voting machine in 14 centers of the City Corporation of Chittagong and 58 centers of the City Corporation of Narayanganj. On January 5, 2012, several polling stations in the Municipality of Comilla were held for the first time through the EVM system. However, on March 30, 2017, Comilla City Corporation’s second full election was held through the use of Electronic Voting Machines or EVMs made with indigenous technology. This was the story of the use of technology in polls.

Notably, the long queues of voters at EVM centers during the aforementioned elections indicated their lack of interest in voting with modern technology. Young and middle-aged voters voted more comfortably in EVMs. Voters voted with their own enthusiasm at the EVM. Voters’ opinion is that they were able to vote safely and easily in a short time using EVMs. Because the benefits of digital Bangladesh are now visible to everyone like the light of day. Thus, the interest of many voters in using EVM in municipal elections is known and a trained workforce has also been developed for its use. In fact, teaching officials and concerned voters how to use EVMs and preparing people mentally will increase its popularity.

Electronic voting systems are one way to strengthen the democratic process in the 21st century by allowing voters to express their own opinions. Electronic machines or equipment are used to vote, so the overall process is known as an electronic voting machine or “EVM”. Its other name is “electronic voting”. In the electronic process, it is able to both accurately apply votes and quickly count votes. It has also gradually established itself worldwide as a transparent and fair voting space. The EVM system was first observed in 1964 in the elections of 7 states in the United States; Gradually, the issue of punch card voting became popular.

Voting has already been done in different countries around the world using EVM. These include India, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Estonia, European Union, France, Germany, Ireland, from Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Peru, Romania, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Venezuela, Philippines, etc. In these countries, EVMs are mainly used in polling stations as polling places. It is also possible to implement electronic voting using the Internet, a personal computer network, the telephone. New optical scanning voting systems use punched cards, optical scanners. In this method, a voter marks the ballot and votes. On the other hand, in the DR EVM (Direct Recording Electronic Voting Machine) voting system, the process of collecting and counting votes is performed using a single machine. All voters in Brazil and India use it in all types of elections. DRE voting systems are also widely practiced in Venezuela and the United States.

Despite the allegations of some oppositions, there was no possibility of rigging in the use of the EVM system. Because it requires the President’s or Deputy President’s biometrics to function, no one could function without them. For some reason the machine was broken but the votes received were not lost. The card from the machine only contains voter information from that center so no one else can vote. And no one could suppress someone’s vote. Even if someone presses the button multiple times, the first vote remains the same. Again, the smart card to be used in the machine belongs to the officer in charge, so it was of no use even if someone else was in the cabin.

On the other hand, if the manager presses the closing switch of the control unit at the end of the specified time, there is no longer any possibility of voting. The EVMs are in no way connected to the Internet and therefore cannot be hacked, the vote can be taken at the center where the EVM is used. When the voter comes to vote, he has the option to vote by verifying with a smart card or an ID card number or a fingerprint. After verification with one of them, the voter’s photo is projected on a projector which is also seen by all the candidate’s agents, then he enters the secret voting room.

After being identified as a valid voter, the voter appears in a secret room known as the Voting Unit. Upon entering, he found the ballot in the machine and voted by pressing the button next to the symbol. After you vote, the symbol of the candidate you voted for appears on the screen. It is the confirmation for the voter of the mark for which he voted. When the voter presses the confirmation button, a sound is heard to indicate that their vote has been cast. The entire EVM process is transparent and convenient.

As we can see in the City Corporation elections, voters have become accustomed to EVMs as election workers have worked for a time to create demonstration, voting education and public awareness. Each center had at least three technical officers in addition to the teller. Voting should not be affected by technical errors; Make voters feel comfortable. In fact, it was the capacity of the EC that enabled the acceptance of EVMs. There is no substitute for the EVM system for a fair and orderly election and prompt declaration of results. The decision to use EVMs in the next local or national elections should be seen as positive and commendable.

Harunur Rasid is a London-based Bangladeshi expat who is a Bangladeshi and Myanmar affairs observer, analyst and researcher.

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