ECP set to buy EVMs but confused about features

ISLAMABAD - The Election Commission (ECP) is all set to float international tenders for purchase of electoral technology but the stakeholders look confused about specifications of the modern machinery besides lacking legal cover.
Currently, the ECP, Ministry of Information Technology and National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) have been pondering over what type of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) should be purchased keeping in view the requirements of voters.
The ECP needs EVMs that can keep data of voters for months besides user friendly for the local voters that would be trying the technology for the first time in Pakistan. ECP needs such kind of EVMs that can store the polled votes so that the voters can claim that he/she has cast votes for certain candidates.
Despite that the Electoral Reforms Committee has met for more than 50 times, the multi-party parliamentary committee has not yet legislated about the use of E-voting in the country.
For example, there is no legislation about the petitioners who can question the record of votes they have polled through the EVMs. For this, the parliament is required to make legislation once election is held using modern technology.
Moreover, the committee consisting of three ministries is confused whether to go for Optical Scanner technology or Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) technology of E-voting with the former prone to errors and the latter too costly to afford.
However, official sources told The Nation that the committee has agreed to adopt the DRE technology as its hardware and software have maximum life though the technology is expensive in international market.
The specifications of the EVM, according to officials involved in preparation of the features of the electoral technology, will be shared with members of the parliamentary electoral reforms committee before floating inviting vendors across the world.
The ECP intends to purchase 300 to 400 EVMs for the first ever pilot project in the country and will try the machinery during by-elections.
The cost of an EVM in international market ranges from US$500 to US$4000. The EVM Pakistan seeks will approximately cost US$3000 dollars. “We will need at least 300 to 400 machines. The EVMs will be handy and easy to use,” the official said.
These machines will have three components consisting of ballot units, a control unit to be controlled by Presiding Officer and a receipt that will not be available with the voter who has polled a vote but will be stored in the machine.
“I think a voter should have a receipt about the candidate whom he has cast a vote. Keeping the receipt with election staff will make the technology controversial and will create trust deficit,” a source said seeking not to be mentioned as the specifications of the machinery have not yet been shared with politicians.
The ECP is also in touch with Michael Burke, the international expert the commission has hired for guiding on electoral technology.
The international vendors will be invited to Pakistan and will be asked to bring an EVM machine each so that the committee qualify the machinery it deems to be suitable in the country.
“We will hopefully float the tenders in the next two to three weeks. The specifications will be shared with political stakeholders first. We have deliberated extensively on the features of the EVMs,” Director General IT in ECP Khizar Aziz told The Nation yesterday.
It is to be mentioned here that the ECP has not piloted any EVM technology in any election. It had used Biometric Machines in Haripur during by-election in which 50 percent identifications of voters were erroneously recorded.
“We need 100 percent accurate results. Besides, we need to satisfy voters who are the real stakeholders. Though we lack legislation on electoral technology yet we need to proceed without any delay by purchasing the machinery first,” Mr Hayat who has studied EVMs used in Europe, Barzil, India and the United States said.

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