Geingob Questions Reliability of EVMs

PRIME Minister Hage Geingob yesterday asked the electoral commission whether the electronic voting machines are reliable if there are still questions about the paper trail option.

The Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) paid a courtesy call on Geingob to explain and clarify to him the use of the electronic voting machines (EVMs).

Geingob said there are questions being asked and requested that the ECN should provide comprehensive answers. “If the machines are so good, why do we still have the option of a paper trail?”

Some political parties have questioned the voting machines’ reliability, saying there is a possibility for the machines to be tampered with or pre-programmed to favour a certain political party.

The ECN chairperson, Notemba Tjipueja, said the voting machines were easier to use, compared to the use of pencils. She also said so far, they had not received any complaints about the use of the voting machines.

Tjipueja further said that in India, where the machines were bought and used, the law was silent on the issue of paper trail.

She further said although India has tested the paper trail machines, it does not mean there was anything wrong with the current ones.

“Indians held elections without using a paper trail because they don’t consider it a requirement,” Tjipueja said, adding that their Supreme Court did not make any orders regarding the use of the voting machines during the elections.

“There was a citizen in India who raised the issue of the EVMs but it does not imply that there are faults with the results,” she said. “We are hopeful and believe we can successfully implement the use of EVMs during elections.”

Tjipueja said the voting machines, like calculators, do not have a programme that can be manipulated like computers. “They are stand-alone machines. They run independently. There is no reason for anyone to be concerned that there might be a manipulation,” she assured Geingob.

An added aantage, she pointed out, was that electronic voting machines reduce the time spent on counting, and that the results would be announced within 24 hours after polls close. However, Geingob insisted to know why the Indians want to manufacture voting machines with paper trail if the current ones are satisfactory, and Tjipueja said they might be doing it just to improve the quality but not necessarily because there was something wrong with the current ones

She also said the electoral commission cannot source voting machines with paper trail facility from India yet, because they are still “in the trial phase and must first be perfected before being marketed”.

Referring to the amended Electoral Act, Tjipueja said there is a transitional provision for the use of the voting machines without paper trail until the Bill is gazetted. The Law Reform and Development Commission chairperson Sacky Shanghala has been on record cautioning the electoral commission on the use of the voting machines without the voter verifiable paper audit trail.

The paper trail facility allows the verification of votes through a receipt that serves as proof that the vote cast was for a particular political party.

Shanghala has pointed out through various media that the lack of a paper trail could create turmoil in the country should the voting machines crash. He also said paper trail creates room for transparency and guards against fears that the machines may be pre-programmed.

Director of operations at the electoral commission Theo Mujoro on Tuesday said the voting machines proved to be reliable during the recent by-elections at Bukalo in Zambezi, Otjinene in Omaheke and in Ohangwena.

Source : The Namibian