CORRECTION: Voter breaks EVM during seafarers’ elections

ATTENTION – CORRECTION: Corrects error in headline, should read ‘voter’ and not ‘voters’

WALVIS BAY: A voter broke an Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) during the Presidential and National Assembly elections for sea-going personnel here on Friday.

The incident occurred at the Kuisebmond Community Hall, where the unidentified person pressed the wrong button while trying to vote for the presidential candidate of their choice, causing the machine to stop working.

Those in the queue then had to be diverted to the National Assembly voting booth and wait for about 30 minutes while the technician attended to the machine.

A technician from Bharat Electronics in India who was on standby at the venue managed to fix the machine, allowing the election to continue smoothly.

Namibia bought the EVMs from the Indian company last year.

It is suspected that instead of pressing the green button first, the voter forcefully pressed the red button, causing it to fall into the machine.

Voters are expected to first press the green button to select the presidential candidate they want to vote for. The red button is then activated, and the voter should press the red button to confirm their vote. The machine emits a beep to indicate that the vote is registered.

The same process goes for the National Assembly elections, where the political party logo instead of a picture of the presidential candidate is situated next to the green button.

Responding to media queries on the matter, Director of Elections at the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN), Paul Isaak said the voter did not break the machine deliberately.

“It could be that he or she is one of the people who did not show up for voter education, that’s why they did not know which button to gently press first,” the professor said.

It was also observed that many of the voters struggled to use the EVMs, prompting the ECN officials at the venue to explain the basics to voters before they entered the booths.

Some voters who struggled called for assistance, while others attempted to walk out immediately after voting for a president candidate.

Voters had to vote for both the Presidential and National Assembly elections, which was done separately in the two booths at the venues.

The Swapo-Party’s Coordinator for the Erongo Region, Philipus Heita last week complained that voter education in Erongo started late, saying he fears it might not reach everyone in time.

Hilda Nakakuwa, the deputy director of the ECN’s voter education and democracy building division, however refuted these claims, saying the voter education programme which mostly covers the use of the EVMs started on time. She said all places listed on their database as being in need of voter education will be covered.

Isaak further stated that the queues were very slow on Friday due to paper work to verify that all voters were sea-going personnel.

“We will not have this problem on 28 November as there will be no paper work, so the queues will move fast. In the future we might increase the venues for these elections from two to four to ensure speed,” said the elections director.

Also responding to questions about whether all seafarers received enough voter education on how to use the EVMs, ECN’s elections coordinator in Erongo, Kashidinge Lukas Nghipuilepo said effort was made but some workers could not show up due to their work schedules.

Nghipuilepo urged all Namibians who require voter education to approach the ECN offices and arrange to receive such education.

About 3 008 seafarers were registered to vote in Walvis Bay. Of that number, more than 2 700 voted on Thursday.

The ruling Swapo-Party obtained 2 614 of the votes cast, leaving the spoils to the opposition parties to share.

Isaak confirmed said the elections were free and fair as it was transparent, and there was no intimidation or disruption from the general public or opposition parties.

The results of the sea-going personnel’s elections will be announced once more along with the national election results two days after 28 November.