ECN Sets Record Straight On EVMs

The Director of the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) Professor Paul Isaak is adamant the new electronic voting machines (EVMs) will be used for the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections come November this year.

This is despite heavy criticism and suspicion, especially from the opposition parties regarding the viability and legality of EVMs and whether eligible voters will receive voter education in time to competently use the EVMs.

The ECN held a strategic workshop where they set up a timeline in which to introduce the EVMs to political parties, the public and all other stakeholders, he said.

“Within the next two weeks we will go to various constituencies and regions to engage in voter education,” he said, adding that they initially focused on registration of eligible voters before embarking on voter education.

He said the ECN would do everything in its power to make sure the message reaches all eligible voters, adding that the new electoral law reform would also change how voter education takes place.

The ECN director alluded that some of the changes to the Electoral Act would be that voters not be required to produce water and electricity bills in local authority elections as was the case in the past, while it would also change voting to take place over one day.

“In the next two weeks, we will roll out voter education. In some regions, we have already started,” he said, adding that the ECN wants to make sure eligible voters familiarize themselves with the EVMs to be confident and accept the machines when the polls start.

Contrary to some media reports about faulty EVMs being sent back to India, Isaak said no machines were sent back and “everything was in good working order”.

He said there were issues of batteries but since the machines were on guarantee, they would be obtained at no extra cost.

He said Namibia was well ahead of countries like South Africa, which would probably only use EVMS in the 2019 elections, adding that Namibia would also be the first African country to use the new technology. He said he was confident about the use of EVMs as the Namibian population was small compared to India with over 800 million voters.

He further stressed that the ECN was going to secure enough EVMs so that if some became faulty, they could be replaced.

Referring to the Indian elections, where the machines caused suspicion over reliability, Isaak said the EVMs had not failed the Indian society and were used confidently. Asked why the opposition were suspicious about EVMs, he said the Act was in place, but the confusion emanated from some regulations within the Act that needed to be gazetted, such as the regulations on what buttons to press when voting.

“Legal practitioners must draft the regulations to line (government) ministries and that doesn’t need to go through the lawmakers,” he said. Isaak said they would hold round meetings with political parties to bring more awareness.

An ECN technician, who has worked on the EVMs since they were bought, said that voter education was straightforward and not difficult, even for the most illiterate person as what is needed is to press a button against a corresponding candidate or political party of their choice.

He said that acquiring more EVMs would reduce the number of mobile polling stations, which would make it possible to vote in one day. The ECN reportedly doubled the purchase of 1 700 EVMs to bring the figure to 3 400.

He ruled out the possibility of the EVMs being tampered with before the elections, explaining the machines all came with sealed serial numbers and the number of eligible voters would be programmed as per constituency at election time. He said in order to change the data on the EVMs, the seal would have to be broken, which would indicate that the particular voting machine had been tampered with. He said they have been providing voter education at numerous trade fairs over the years and were currently giving voter education in Tsumeb before going to the constituencies. He said the Namibian machines were adapted in such a way that when you press a button against the candidate or political party that you are voting for, a light would go off. Then you have to press the button again to register your vote, which would show who you voted for.

He said last year they held mock voting at Parliament and Members of Parliament (MPs) were physically present and did not have reservations about the EVMs.

“As a Namibian, I was [at first] extremely skeptical the machines would work, but it’s very easy to train people,” he said.

The EVMs coupled with a voter registration kit (VRK), which were acquired from India at a cost of N$22 million is an aanced biometric information system that allows for the registration of voters in a speedy and accurate way.

The VRK produces identification document (ID) type voter cards that contain a variety of security features and uses biometric aspects to capture data for each person at the registration venue, which includes fingerprints, a photo and personal information in text format.

Source : New Era