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Wednesday, July 6, 2022
EditorialThe EVMs debate

The EVMs debate

The debate on the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) for the 2023 general elections is still at a deadlock. The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) has been pushing hard on its use, claiming that EVMs will ensure “fair and transparent” polls in the country. But the opposition parties have time and again refused to adopt the mechanism, terming it a ‘rigging machine’. On Monday, the government once again failed to convince the opposition on the use of EVMs during a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Parliamentary Affairs. Senator Farooq H Naek questioned whether the voting machine would be able to identify fake voters. To this, Science and Technology Minister Shibli Faraz said that “the EVMs did not have any deficiency and were effective.” But are they? The concept of EVMs or i-voting are not a new phenomenon. However, the truth is that EVMs have not been without controversy in countries they have been used in. In neighbouring India, while EVMs have been used since 1982, they have come under scrutiny for alleged rigging through the manipulation of the machine.

In fact, a 2018 study of the Indian EVMs stated that “in spite of the machine’s simplicity and minimal software trusted computing base, it is vulnerable to serious attacks that can alter election results and violate the secrecy of the ballot”. This will then undermine the secrecy of the ballot – a principle enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan. This is not to say that electronic voting is not a viable option. It does provide relief from the cumbersome process of paper work and speeds up result reporting. However, the government should be in no hurry to introduce them. It also took India 22 years to implement the use of EVMs for polls across the country. The ruling PTI must realise that EVMs are not a one-stop solution to the problems surrounding Pakistan’s electoral system. The most crucial problem is voters lack of trust and confidence in the system. Pakistan has a history of wide-scale election manipulation and violence. The 2018 results transmission systems (RTS) collapse still remains a mystery till date. Instead of focusing on EVMs usage across the country in the upcoming general elections, which would cost the national exchequer around Rs28 billion, the government must work towards electoral reforms that empower citizens.

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