LRDC Puts EVMs Under Scrutiny

The Law Reform and Development Commission(LRDC) says through research they have come across potential dangers in the usage of the electronic voting machines (EVMs).

One of the setbacks detected is the verification of results in elections in which EVMs were used.

Although no hiccups were reported in the Ohangwena by-election earlier this month with regard to the usage of the EVMs which for the first time in Namibian elections were favoured ahead of the tested ballot system, LRDC feels it’s hard to verify votes if the machines become faulty.

“How do you ascertain with these voting machines how a person has voted? How will you deal with issues that will fall from the elections being disputed, and what will you do when the machine malfunctions?” LRDC legal officer, Ndjodi Ndeunyema, questioned yesterday during the commission’s information session with the media.

The session was part of an engagement regarding the Electoral Bill which was tabled by Minister of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development, Major General (Rtd) Charles Namoloh in the National Assembly on Tuesday.

Future voting is expected to be conducted on one day instead of the customary two days.

He however said the LRDC has received assurances from the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) that such a scenario is unlikely to happen.

“But in abundance of caution, we as the LRDC recommend that a voting machine should be accompanied by a verifiable paper trail,” he said.

Ndeunyema said there are persuasive case laws from other international jurisdictions, one major one being the India 2013 decision of the Supreme Court, which stated that the use of the verifiable paper trail is an indispensable requirement for a voter.

“The LRDC is persuaded by such reasoning. So our recommendation is that voting machines should be accompanied by verifiable paper trails,” he noted.

Currently the EVMs do not accommodate verifiable paper trails.

Ndeunyema also emphasised the secrecy of the vote which he says should be protected.

“There is a particular provision in the Electoral Bill that prohibits the use of, or the entering of a polling station with a mobile phone or any recording devices. We know and foresee certain people may be compelled to prove that they voted for a certain party or certain presidential candidate by for example taking a picture of their ballot paper with their cellphone. So as to ensure that the secrecy of the vote is protected, we recommend prohibiting the use of any such device,” he stated.

He warned of the possibility that “if we proceed with the old law for the upcoming elections the same challenges will be repeated and confusion of the 2009 election court challenges may repeat.”

He denied LRDC delayed the bill by not giving it to the minister to be tabled before parliament, saying it is a process, and there are stakeholders and policy makers that need to be consulted.

Contrary to there being any major hiccups due to spoilt ballots (there were none), the 2014 Ohangwena by-election which ECN said was free and fair saw an increase in the votes cast and counted compared to the 2010 by-election.

Some 6 772 (59.9 percent) of the 11 322 registered voters exercised their democratic right, with 5 827 voting for Swapo, while the Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) won 945 votes.

This translated to 51.5 percent of the voters giving the thumbs-up to Swapo, with a mere 8.4 percent voting for the official opposition party.

In the 2010 by-election, just over 10 000 were registered to vote in the same constituency, with a voter turnout of 57.3 percent, with Swapo capturing 49.5 percent of the vote, while the RDP received 7.82 percent.

More than 4 500 registered voters stayed away from the polls.

The by-election followed the death of the previous Swapo Regional Councillor, Maria Kombwana.

In terms of the Electoral Act a vacancy has to be filled within 90 days.

Source : New Era