Half of Electronic Voting Machines Yet to Arrive

TWO months before Namibians head to the polls, the Electoral Commission of Namibia has only half of the electronic voting machines required to hold successful elections.

The Namibian reported in May this year that the ECN had planned to purchase 3 500 additional EVMs for the national and presidential elections at the cost of N$30 million, in order to supplement the current 3 500 EVMs.

However, this has not happened.

ECN director of operations Theo Mujoro yesterday said they are aware that the current number of machines would not be sufficient to cover the elections and therefore there is a need to purchase more.

“The machines will be available by mid-October to supplement the current number that is in our possession, ” said Mujoro.

He added that for each polling station, there will be two ballot units connected to a control unit which allows the voter to cast their vote like in a ballot election and in this way to replicate the manual election process.

The EVM consists of a ballot unit, a control unit and a tabulator with printers.

Mujoro provided The Namibian with a breakdown of the current 3 500 EVMs. The parts making up the 3500 EVMs are 1 700 control units, 3 400 ballot units, 200 tabulators and 500 printers.

“The additional machines will be 3 400 control units, 3 400 ballot units, 1 700 printers and 121 display panels. It is one for each constituency,” said Mujoro.

The EVMs have raised concern among many members of the public including political parties, who felt that the machines could be tampered with or pre-programmed to favour a certain political party.

However, Mujoro said the EVMs have proved to be reliable during the recent by-elections at Bukalo in Zambezi and in Otjinene in Omaheke.

“The process of acquiring the EVMs was not a yesterday thing, it was about seven years ago. We realise that the EVMs are not enough and that is why we need more for the national elections,” said Mujoro.

Earlier, Law Reform and Development Commission chairperson Sacky Shanghala cautioned the ECN on the use of EVMs without the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT).

The VVPAT allows the voter to have their vote verified through a receipt-like paper that serves as proof that the vote has gone to the political party of their choice.

Shanghala had pointed out that the lack of the paper trail will disturb the peace in the country and create turmoil, should the EVMs system crash.

He said the use of the VVPAT allows room for transparency and to guard against fears that the machines may be pre-programmed.

The amended Electoral Bill states that the use of voting machines “is subject to the simultaneous utilisation of a verifiable paper trail for every vote cast by a voter and any vote cast is verified by a count of the paper trail”.

“In the event that the results of the voting machines and the results of the paper trail do not tally, the paper trail results are accepted as the election outcome for the polling station or voting thread concerned,” the Bill further says.

The president of the DTA of Namibia McHenry Venaani yesterday criticised the ECN for going against the law with the usage of the EVMs.

He said if the ECN cannot adhere to what it says about the need to use the verified paper trail “we will meet in court.”

Similarly, Rally for Democracy and Progress’s spokesperson Libolly Haufiku said it was better for the ECN to adhere to the law fully and not partially.

“Our main concern is the law and if we go against it, what do we have? It’s better to fully adhere to the law and not some parts of it. The ECN will just have to buy the paper trail and attach it to the EVMS for the elections,” said Haufiku.

Swapo administrator Hamunyera Hambyuka said funds should be made available to ensure that the EVMs have the paper trail.

“If the Act says the EVMs should have a verifiable paper trail than funds should be made available for the ECN to add what is missing to the EVMS,” said Hambyuka.

Source : The Namibian