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21 June, 2019 00:00 00 AM

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Significance of electronic voting machine in Bangladesh

EVM offers a number of important collateral benefits in our social, cultural, environmental, technological, political and economic life
M. Zahidul Islam
Significance of electronic voting 
machine in Bangladesh

Bangladesh has been struggling to take the advantage of using the electronic voting machine (EVM) for the last few years. It offers a number of advantages as well as serious disadvantages along with some challenges.

Most of the people still do not know much about this device and the technology involved in it. Whenever the government tries to introduce it in any election, the oppositions come forward with strong criticisms for its negative implications. Bangladesh tried to utilize EVM at Officers’ club Election (2007), Chittagong City Corporation Election (2010), Comilla City Corporation Election (2011), Narayanganj City Corporation Election (2011), some centres of Rangpur, Barisal, Sylhet, Rajshahi and Khulna City Corporation (2016)and only in six places in the national election (2018). Gradually people have been becoming familiar with this device due to some government efforts.Mixed reactions have been coming out from the people who have experienced with this device, some of them positive and negative as well. So this is the high time to think, evaluate and take appropriate actions regarding the utilization of this device for the benefit and welfare of our country.

The electrical voting machine is a combination of mechanical and electromechanical equipment which is used to define ballots, cast and count votes, and to display election results. It is used to cast vote without paper ballots. A voter only needs to press button to cast a vote. It has two parts: a) ‘control unit’ and b)‘balloting unit’.

The control unit is operated by an assigned polling officer and the balloting unit is used to cast vote in secret by pressing the button for the candidate’s name and symbol.The control unit is considered as the ‘brain’ of the machine. The balloting unit is turned on only after the polling officer presses the ‘Ballot’ button on it. A voter is identified by using smart card or fingerprint or voter number or national identification number.  When any one of the four options is entered into the EVM, then it displays the information of the voter on the monitor of control unit. The presiding officer at the polling centre verifies the information properly and having satisfied with the information, presses the “Confirm Button” to activate the digital ballot unit which is kept in a secret room. Voters enter this secret chamber where the digital ballot unit shows the symbol of the candidates on the left hand side and their names on the right hand side. To cast vote, the voter needs to press the Black Button to the left side of the desired symbol. Then, the indicator beside the symbol will flash out. To confirm the vote, the voter needs to press the green button.

In case of casting the wrong vote,the voter will get the opportunity to correct the mistake unless and until the voter presses the Green Button.To correct the mistake, press the Red Button of the “Digital Ballot Unit”.

This will cancel the previous command and the voter will get the chance to choose the symbol again. Then, confirm the vote by pressing the Green Button after the correction. The use of EVM is very easy and simple and it offers a number of advantages as follows.

Advantages of EVM

1.    In EVM system there is no need of using millions of tonnes of ballot papers that waste a huge amount of public money. So we can save a lot of money by using EVM that can be used in other seriously needed sectors such as health care, poverty alleviation etc.

2.    In this system the vote casting, counting and displaying results – all are being done by the machine. So there is no need of deploying thousands of people across the country to deal with the ballot paper, counting votes and preparing results and spend huge amount of public money for this work. So it saves a large amount of public money.

3.    The EVM system can also save the cost of simply printing and distributing the millions of ballots required to make an election happen in the ballot paper system. Rejecting the use of paper ballot will help to improve our environment.

4.    The EVM system has either zero or negative effect on the likelihood of vote capture, as the presiding officer could press the “close” button to disable the device, preventing any intruders from taking control of the polling booth. So it helps to reduce social crime and violence.

5.    E-voting helps uphold the accuracy and integrity of the result by preventing manual miscounts or any other mix-ups.

6.    Vote records are completely safe and confidential, no chance of losing data and highly stable memory which can store data up to 100 years.

7.    In battery operated EVM, no need of electricity and in spite of damaging of the device vote record can be retrieved.

8.    It is re-usable and cost effective and ensures a faster and more accurate collation of votes;

9.    In EVM, there is no chance of delaying the vote count, or changing the result under the cover of delayed announcement

10.    The EVM is user friendly as it makes casting of votes and counting easy along with the safeguard against vote rigging because no one else can cast the vote of a valid voter.

11.    It reduces the total number of rejected votes, since voters know when their choice is recorded; they are not allowed to choose more than one candidate, eliminating the possibility of choosing more than one, which reduces the likelihood of a vote getting rejected.

12.    The EVM system leads to strengthening of democratic institutions and better representation of marginalized and vulnerable segments of the society. Reducing electoral fraud, it helps to make elected officials more accountable.

13.    It can increase voter turnouts, integrity and security, and thus defends democracy.

14.    The concept of electronic voting has garnered widespread political support, seen as both a cost-saving measure and a possible way of boosting turnout in an era of declining voter representation.

15.    Bangladesh has already been able to produce EVM locally and there is a great potential for flourishing this industry that would not only save lots of foreign currencies, it will also improve our economy and create a huge jobs in this sector.

It is evident from the above points that the EVM offers a number of important collateral benefits in our social, cultural, environmental, technological, political and economic life.

Disadvantages of EVM system

1.    Many people have raised concerns relating to security, reliability, accuracy, confidentiality, access, and privacy.

2.    The security concerns include the ability of the system to combat: a) organised and individual fraud, b) sabotage, c) hackers and d) viruses.

3.    In terms of reliability and accuracy many people have concerns about the logical capacity of the system whether it would be able to cope with the number of people trying to access the system or would crash.

4.    People have also raised questions about their ability to use this device and adequate knowledge on this system, and whether the system would receive and correctly attribute votes cast.

5.    Many people fear about the loss of anonymity and confidentiality, if they cast their vote electronically it would be possible to trace both whether and how they had voted.

6.    The issue of privacy is linked to the location of potential electronic methods. The privacy of the booth at polling stations is felt to be intrinsic to the secrecy of voting.

Challenges for successful implementation of EVM project:

Considering all the advantages and disadvantages of the EVM we must have to modernise the voting system for the greater interest of our country. In order to implement it successfully we can learn from the experiences of other countries. Many countries have been using EVM successfully for several years such as India, Brazil, Venezuela, Belgium, the Philippines, many states of USA etc. Some countries have abandoned the use of EVM due to some problems such as Finland, Netherland, Malaysia etc. So to take the advantage of this unique technology we have to face the challenges in the following areas.

1.    All the issues relating to the disadvantages must have to be addressed.

2.    There should be guarantee thatthe vote must have to be secret, secure and accountable, and no vote be given away, stolen or forced.

3.    Build-up trust among all the political, social and citizen groups.

4.    Continuous research and development are needed for innovating appropriate ‘foolproof’device suitable for our country.

The government should take specific course of action to meet the above challenges and achieve the goal successfully for the interest our nation.

The writer is a contributor to

The Independent

 

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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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