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Voters, election officials give thumbs up to EVM debut

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Publication Date: 31 December, 2018

SAUGATO BOSU, Dhaka and SHAMSUDDIN ILLIUS, Chattogram

Voters expressed satisfaction over casting votes by electronic voting machines (EVMs) that were used in six constituencies for the first time in the 11th parliamentary election held yesterday. They said the EVMs were “user friendly” and ensured their right to vote. Even the presiding officers, who conducted the polling by EVMs, said the new system was better than the traditional ballot papers. However, some voters complained of problems with the EVMs, which cropped up due to fingerprint mismatches and not because of technical glitches.

Mustafizur Rahman, a presiding officer at Taltala Government Primary school (centre-129) in Dhaka-13, told The Independent that they had eight EVM booths with 16 machines. “Eight were additional and kept as backup in case of any problem with the EVMs in use,” he added. “During the start of polling, three EVMs malfunctioned. But we fixed the problem with help from the technical team from Army,” he said.

Out of the 3,400 voters listed at the polling centre, more than 600 had cast their vote by 12.35 pm. “The EVM is user friendly as well as makes casting of votes and counting easy. It also safeguards against vote rigging because no one else can cast the vote of a valid voter,” Rahman said.

“Such modern technology should replace the traditional ballot paper as EVMs are more regular and digital too,” said Harun-ur Rashid, a voter of Dhaka-13 after casting his vote.

However, voters claimed that several machines in the centre could not read fingerprints properly. Sarf Uddin, a presiding officer at Centre-47 in Dhaka-13, acknowledged the problem and told The Independent that sometimes voters faced some problems with the fingerprint casting necessary for voting. “Women in our country are usually homemakers who use their thumbs randomly to cut and chop vegetables. This creates problems with the thumb prints,” he explained.

“As much as 10 per cent of the fingerprints did not match. In that case, we allowed the voters to vote after confirming their identity,” he added.

Ramesh Chandra, a voter of Dhaka-13, said he was happy with the EVM. “It is better than our traditional system. I feel secure to cast my vote with EVM. None can resist me to manipulate my voting right,” he said.

The Independent also visited some other centres of Dhaka-6 and found that some EVMs were malfunctioning during the start of polling. However, election officials soon replaced them with the ones kept as backup.

In Chattogram-9 constituency, the voters expressed happiness over casting their votes for the first time through EVMs. The scenario was the same across the 14 polling centres in the constituency.

“I found the system very nice. The EVMs can be a wonderful way to prevent vote rigging,” said Abu Taleb, a voter. The presiding officers also said that EVMs were swift and ensured transparency, though there were some problems with mismatch of fingerprints.

“We did not face any problem with the EVMs. Sometimes, some of the machines became slow, but our technical team fixed the problem. We also had backup EVMs for every polling booth,” said Monirul Haque Patowary, a presiding officer.

Many voters, however, returned without casting their votes after waiting for a long time because their fingerprints did not match with the EVMs’ software.

However, as EVMs went out of order, voting was suspended at two polling centres at Chattogram-9, constituency where vote was cast by EVMs, for six hours.

Presiding Officers said from 8am to 2pm as many as 933 voters could not cast their vote at Regional Public Administration Training Centre (RPATC) in the city for the EVM disorder.

Asif Mahmud, presiding officer of the polling centre, said that all the EVMs functioned properly during the demo from 7am to 8am but the EVM at Booth No 6 stopped functioning as soon as the voting began at 8am.

At 2pm the vote resumed after getting a new EVMs from EC, he said.

In Khulna-2 constituency, both voters and presiding officials expressed their happiness over the EVMs.

On November 26, the Election Commission (EC) had selected six constituencies out of 300 to introduce EVMs for the parliamentary polls. The constituencies are Dhaka-6, Dhaka-13, Chattogram-9, Rangpur-3, Khulna-2 and Shatkhira-2.

The EC selected the constituencies on a random basis through computer programming at the conference room of Nirbachan Bhaban in presence of journalists.

However, some major political parties, particularly the BNP-led Jatiya Oikyafront, opposed the use of EVMs. They alleged that there were chances of manipulation of electoral results.

Constituencies    Voting Centres    Polling Booths    Voters

Dhaka 6    98    533    269,315

Dhaka 13    134    701    372,775

Chittagong 9    144    743    390,431

Rangpur 3    130    910    441,671

Khulna 2    157    682    294,116

Satkhira 2    137    698    356,246

Shamsuddin Illius
Shamsuddin Illius is a print and online media journalist. He has been working in the field (fulltime) of journalism since 2010. He is very much passionate about journalism since his early age. Currently he is the Bureau Chief-Chittagong at The Business Standard.

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