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Prevention of booth capture to be main challenge for EC, say experts

EFFICACY OF EVMS IN DNCC, DSCC POLLS
HARUN UR RASHID, Dhaka
Prevention of booth capture to be main challenge for EC, say experts

Electronic voting machines (EVMs) may prevent overnight ballot stuffing, but the biggest challenge for the Election Commission (EC) in the upcoming Dhaka city corporation polls will be to prevent the capture of polling centres by powerful quarters, say experts. They also say if the polling centres are captured by certain quarters or powerful candidates, helpless voters would press the button as told by these elements. In that case, there would be no difference between holding polls through EVMs and paper ballots.

They observe that EVMs might provide some solutions to prevent alleged ballot stuffing at night, but still there are doubts among voters, candidates, and polling agents. Regarding doubts about EVMs, they say the EC has not carried out any awareness campaign on a massive scale. Only when elections come, the EC shows its readiness to use EVMs. This does not help much to dispel doubts about the machines, they add. They further say EVMs are not fool-proof measures to prevent rigging as these do not have the scope to verify the votes later. The experts allege that people have lost trust in the EC, which is leading to lower turnout in elections. The polls become questionable in the absence of polling agents, observers, or keen observance of journalists, they note.

They say capture of polling centres is a punishable offence and the EC has to create an environment so that people can vote without fear.

The Representation of People Order (RPO) has a provision that deems capture of polling stations as a punishable offence.

According to provision 81 (1) (f):  “A person is guilty of an offence punishable with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to  [seven years] and shall not be less than three years, and also with fine, if he - in furtherance of the prospect of the election of a contesting candidate or to subvert election, captures, or abets or connives at, the capturing of, a polling station or polling booth- (i) and compels the polling authorities to surrender the ballot papers, ballot boxes or other polling materials and documents and do any other acts affecting the orderly conduct of election or counting of votes or preparation of documents relating to election.”

The experts say the EC has to take proper measures to prevent capture of polling stations during polls.

Former election commissioner Brig. Gen. (retd) M Shakhawat Hossain told The Independent: “EVMs can pave the path to hold fair polls. But the most important thing is that how capture of booths would be prevented. The machines would not do it. The EC has to do it.”

“EVMs can prevent overnight ballot stuffing. But if the centres are captured by powerful people, how can fair elections be held?” he wondered.

“The EC has announced to hold the Dhaka civic polls through EVMs. It’s a big challenge as well. A large number of

voters are not yet aware how to operate the machines. Voters and candidates have doubts about the machines,” he said.

He also said the commission should make people aware about EVMs through advertisements throughout the year. “The more EC would engage people with the new systems of elections, the more transparent the elections would be. The EC has to dispel the doubts of the candidates about the technical aspects of EVMs,” he added.

Secretary of Sushasoner Jonno Nagorik, Badiul Alam Majumder, said: “Capture of polling centres is not desirable. Agents, observers, and journalists should be present during elections. EVMs are not a fool-proof measure to ensure transparency in elections. If people can’t cast votes because others are pressing the button, it would be a bigger challenge for fair polls.”

EC sources said they would hold the polls with EVMs and that they have already started various preparations to hold the polls without any trouble.

The EC has kept ready around 35,000 EVMs for 14,600 booths at 2,600 centres for the DNCC and DSCC elections. About 5,300 members of the armed forces would provide technical support for the EVMs.

For the DNCC poll, 32 lakh voters who would cast votes at 8,200 booths of 1,460 centres, while 25 lakh voters would cast votes at 6,400 booths of 1,140 centres for the DSCC poll.

DSCC returning officer Md Abdul Baten said: “We have taken elaborate preparations for using EVMs.

SHK/BK

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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