ECN unveils 'tamper-free' voting machines
The Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) yesterday unveiled its Indian-manufactured electronic voting machines and immediately set about easing concerns that these machines cannot be tampered with or used to rig a ballot. According to the Indian manufacturer of the machine, around 380 million people voted in India's 2009 polls and the result was declared within a few hours.The estimated saving on the switchover to EVMs in India in 2009 was approximately N$151,5 million, while 8 000 tons of paper was saved because no ballot papers had to be printed. These machines are said to have specific customised features to deal with the Namibian environment and to comply with its legal requirements.
The 1 700 control units and 3 500 ballot units that have been acquired by the ECN from the Indian state-owned company Bharat Electronics Limited will be used in the regional and presidential elections next year.
During this week the ECN demonstrated the machines to political parties through the Political Party Liaison Committee of the National Assembly and non-governmental organisations.
The chairperson of the ECN, Notemba Tjipueja, stressed that the machines are not computers, or even similar to computers. "No one, not even the manufacturer, can change or tamper with the system after manufacturing."
She explained that the EVM is a standalone machine consisting of two interconnected components, namely the control unit and the ballot unit.
It cannot be accessed via any other means and it does not transmit any signal or connect to any type of network, said Tjipueja.
According to her the system software that operates the EVM is stored on a read-only memory chip which is hardwired onto the motherboard at manufacturing and it is done in a fully automated plant.
The EVM is also battery powered and does not use electricity. It has a battery life of 54 hours if used continuously, and up to 2 000 voters can use the EVM before it reaches full capacity.
The machines acquired by Namibia have been customised to comply with the legal requirements of the Electoral Act.
Tjipueja said these custom features include the capability of conducting two elections simultaneously, a facility for the voter to change the selection before confirmation of a vote, selection of one candidate out of many, and a tabulation facility for proportional voting.
It also has a real-time clock for logging the date and time of each vote and the date and time of the opening and closing of the polling station.
Tjipueja said the introduction of these machines is imperative to minimise election problems encountered in the past, which included long queues at polling stations, long days of vote counting and late announcement of election results.
The EVM automates the electoral process and thereby avoids the pitfalls of conventional elections, such as spoilt ballots and recounts.
It also saves a lot of money by eliminating ballot papers and ballot boxes, and drastically reduces the staff needed to conduct elections.
The introduction of the EVM and its eventual roll-out in the Namibian elections will be a monumental task, said Tjipueja.
Bharat Electronics will offer extensive training to Namibian electoral officials during the initial phase and provide technical support during the implementation phase.
The ECN is in the process of recruiting two chief trainers per constituency. The ECN will also conduct a rigorous ten-day training programme for chief trainers, grouping the 13 regions into four national clusters, starting the week of July 21.
The ECN will also form regional training and voter education committees.