Disadvantages of electronic voting
Why do we want to introduce e-voting in next general elections in Bangladesh? Will this ensure free and fair election under the current political environment in our country? The answer undoubtedly will be in the negative, writes Shama Obaed
Recently, there has been a debate going on regarding electronic voting, after the Election Commission mentioned a possible plan to introduce electronic voting system in the next general elections. Our prime minister and other ministers of the present government sided with EC’s decision and have spoken in favour of electronic voting. The main opposition party BNP has opposed the idea of e-voting. Although, in the process and ‘excitement’ of building ‘Digital Bangladesh’, it might seem a befitting idea to establish electronic voting system in our country, but I truly think, all the responsible persons of the government and at the EC should seriously analyse the severe disadvantages of e-voting, even before thinking about it as an option for our voting system. They should also seriously investigate why one of the largest democracies, like India and the US, have strongly given valid arguments against electronic voting. What is actually electronic voting, also known as, e-voting? E-voting is a term encompassing several different types of voting, embracing both electronic means of casting a vote, storing the voting record in some database, and electronic means of counting votes. According to ‘E-voting: International developments and lessons learnt’ written by T Buchsbaum, there are two main types of e-voting that can be identified. One is e-voting, which is physically supervised by representatives of governmental or independent electoral authorities (for example electronic voting machines located at polling stations); and the other one is remote e-voting where voting is performed within the voter’s sole influence, and is not physically supervised by representatives of governmental authorities (e.g. voting from one’s personal computer, mobile phone, television via the internet (i-voting). The latter option is hardly possible in our country because of lack of accessibility to personal computers or televisions for every voter. The Election Commission may attempt to consider the first option, which is the electronic voting machines for voters, used for capturing the ballot. Electronic voting systems may use electronic ballots to store votes in the computer memory. Systems which use them exclusively are called DRE (direct recording electronic) voting systems. These systems record votes by means of a ballot display provided with mechanical or electro-optical components that can be activated by the voter, that processes data with computer software and that records voting data and ballot images in memory components. After the election, it produces a tabulation of the voting data stored in a removable memory component and as a printed copy. Please note that Electronic Voting machine, storage device and printers at the polling stations are a must for this type of system. These devices need power and power backups given the electricity and power condition of Bangladesh. Also devices can fail and additional backups for the device have to be maintained. The security and hacking of the device and stored data are also serious concerns along with many others, which I will touch upon soon. In a country like Bangladesh, where the literacy rate is 53 per cent and where computer literacy rate is even less, such electronic ballots are definitely unreasonable and illogical. Moreover, different international organisations have criticised the e-voting system, such as the UK-based Open Rights Group alleged that a lack of testing, inadequate audit procedures, and insufficient attention given to system or process design with electronic voting leaves elections open to error and fraud. In 2009, the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany found that when using voting...
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