How Bangladesh Can Ensure a Free and Fair Election Using Electronic Voting Machine (EVM)?

Finally, the Election Commission has agreed to spend Tk. 8711 crore on the purchase of 2 lakh brand-new Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) to be used to count votes in all 150 seats of the Parliament. Each EVM unit will cost Tk3 lakh 5000 (excluding of VAT tax), which is equivalent to only 22,000 Tk in India. Therefore, the identical equipment is almost 14 times more prevalent in our nation. The purchase of EVMs is not only a luxury, but a joke with people’s money, according to the honorable Prime Minister, who has instructed citizens across the nation to spend money wisely and sparingly on everything, including power and energy.

However, the EVM has achieved more notoriety via political discussion than through electoral activity. EVM is supported by the government alliance while being opposed by the opposition coalition. Seventeen voted in favor and 12 voted against the use of EVMs out of the 29 political parties that took part in the Commission’s discourse on the subject.

The world is now heavily reliant on technology, and usage is growing every day. The fourth industrial revolution consists of technologies like artificial intelligence, robotics, machine learning, the internet of things, block chains, etc. Nowadays, people rule the globe from the comfort of their homes. Nowadays, villagers use machinery to cultivate, sow, grow, and raise their crops. A merchant, an 80-year-old man, laborers, and individuals from all social strata may effortlessly conduct financial transactions using mobile banking services like Bkash, Rocket, and Nagad.

Why not employ technology and equipment for other jobs if there is a chance? But it must be unbiased, trustworthy, easy to use, and transparent. It is more significant in relation to voting. Nevertheless, despite all the criticisms and discussions, the usage of EVM has been steadily rising over the past ten years. As interest in EVMs grows, so does voter interest.

Since EVM is an electrical device, it could have technical issues. There are no records to check in case of disagreements, and in addition to technical faults, EVMs are also arbitrarily modified and outcomes are reversed. because the RAM is read-only. Additionally, there is no means to verify that the votes were cast in support of the preferred candidate.

Although EVMs now feature biometric technology, they do not have a mechanism for Voter Verified Paper Audit Trailing (VVPAT). Additionally, other political parties recommended include VVPAT in their discussions with the EC. Voting in India has long been connected to the VVPAT. In this approach, the voter briefly sees a printed piece of paper bearing the emblem of the preferred candidate after casting their ballot (seven seconds). Then, this document is automatically put in a box kept by the presiding officer and coupled to the electronic voting machine.

By building a voter database, it may be further upgraded. Thus, the issue of rigging will be exposed. In this approach, EVMs will progressively advance and become widely acknowledged as trustworthy electoral instruments in the future. Voters will be interested, confident, and relieved if the VVPAT is connected to the EVM already in use. There will also be transparency in the voting process.

On a trial basis, this technology can be used in some constituencies. Politicians will discuss it, voters will observe it, and eventually it will be widely utilized. As a result, restricted to widespread usage situations for conventional EVMs have developed. The general public never opposes excellent, clear, and user-friendly technology; they really embrace it.

However, for more than a century, the usage of EVMs in electoral activities has been continuously rising. Voting on an EVM can be done quickly and correctly without experiencing any mechanical issues. Every component of its internals is designed in a way that prevents quick manipulation by anyone.

However, there are several claims of vote fraud made in the name of aid. Other than that, it is a pretty trustworthy machine. This procedure is used to cast ballots in all of India’s states, however traditional techniques are also permitted. vote for. This is also cast in Jordan, the Maldives, Namibia, Egypt, Bhutan, and Nepal.

EVMs in Bangladesh are based on those in India. Where there are four ballot units, 16, 32, or 64 candidate names, pictures, and election symbols may be displayed simultaneously. By building a voter database, it may be further upgraded. Only once voting is completed will SMS be received. This will allow the EVM to steadily advance and be promoted as a trustworthy and acceptable election technology in the future.

But there are numerous objections to the EVM’s acceptability both domestically and internationally. In our nation, this argument is more prominent. Because his fingerprints did not match, the Chief Election Commissioner himself was unable to vote in the Dhaka City Corporation election on February 1 (2020). Mr. Abu Saeed Khan, a senior journalist, also said on a talk show that he was unable to vote. Also reported is the completion of the voting process. The method has been scrapped in the Netherlands, Ireland, Italy, Germany, England, and France as a result of several anomalies and complaints.

On the other hand, due to e-voting in the US itself, EVM and DRE systems have shown to be blatantly rigged. However, there are numerous concerns in our nation about the use of EVM by the elderly, technology anxiety, a lack of qualified labor, mechanical issues, the machine not operating on its own, etc.

Every time an EVM becomes non-functional, another functional EVM should be immediately replaced. Remember, everything that is happening is recorded. So, let’s try to understand and solve the problem without blaming the device. If the agent of one party expels another party, the Commission has nothing to do with it. It cannot be the statement of any constitutionally responsible officer. We can offer year-round training on how to vote with the local voters. Keep EVM above controversy and trying to boost its popularity. We can produce a one-hour “EVM show” every day on every television with the aid of professionals. By doing this, the EVM’s fear will vanish, and one day it will be a tool that everyone accepts and trusts.

[Photo by Superior Electoral Court of Brazil]

*Harunur Rasid is a London-based Bangladeshi expatriate who is a Bangladesh and Myanmar affairs observer, analyst, and researcher. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

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