A controversy has erupted between the government and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) over the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs). The technology has been heralded by the prime minister as the only solution to end rigging and other anomalies in the general elections.
The election regulatory has raised around 37 objections to the introduction of EVMs, saying it was prone to tampering and its software could be easily hacked, and thus cannot prevent rigging completely. With less than two years till the government completes its terms, the decision is already facing several hurdles in implementation.
The ECP said there is insufficient time for large-scale procurement of the machines and training all operators. It has also cited other issues including lack of ballot secrecy, capacity, and ensuring security of machines. It said the machines also cannot prevent low turnout, election fraud, vote-buying, horse-trading, and dishonest polling staff. Another major objection raised is that it will be nearly impossible to conduct the entire election in a single day.
The Ministry of Science, which was responsible for developing the EVMs, has rejected the ECP’s objections and is adamant on using the machines for the 2023 general elections. However, the ECP’s reluctance will not only keep it on a collision course with the government but will also give credence to the opposition parties who have rejected the electoral reforms.
Many countries around the world including the United States, UK, and India have been using electronic voting technology since decades. It speeds up the counting of ballots, helps voters save time and the costs gradually decrease in the long term. There are some concerns such as software being hacked but that requires enhancing cyber security with the assistance of computer experts.
The use of electronic voting remains a contentious issue around the world. We saw how former US President Trump disparaged the entire electoral system after he lost the presidential election. However, no one cast doubts on the transparency of the election system. It is therefore imperative that rather than dismissing the use of the technology, all sides must address the reservations to ensure that the next elections are held in a free, fair and transparent manner.