WINDHOEK – The Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) once more defended the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) without a verifiable paper trail, claiming the latter has irrecoverable errors when used during elections.
The absence of a voter-verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) has been a hot topic going into next week’s general election. Over the years, opposition parties have demanded for EVMs to be fitted with VVPAT devices for the elections.
The Electoral Act stipulates that the use of EVMs must be accompanied by a verifiable paper trail for every vote cast. However, these provisions on paper trails have not yet been brought into force since the introduction of the EVMs in Namibian elections, even though all other provisions of the law were enacted almost five years ago.
Briefing the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) election observers on their preparedness ahead of the presidential and national assembly elections next week, ECN chief electoral officer Theo Mujoro explained the VVPAT technology was not in existence at the time the EVMs were acquired by Namibia from India.
He highlighted that the VVPAT has some irrecoverable errors, saying these devices would not communicate with the EVM.
According to Mujoro, printing mechanism simply jams – as is often the case with all printing technologies. Although Mujoro agrees the VVPAT is a good technology as it allows a peace of mind and creates transparency to the voters, he maintains printing jams also compromise the secrecy of the vote.
“The vote is compromised. What should happen if a voter complains the candidate or party printed on the slip shown at the VVPAT widow is incorrect? For the record, the Commission is also in favour of introducing the VVPAT – but not in an irresponsible manner,” Mujoro told the observers.
He defended that the EVMs in Namibia in their current format are fully capable of producing a paper trail. He said if the election results generated from the EVMs are disputed by a contesting party or candidate, such person or parties can order the ECN to print paper trails to show how votes were cast.
The electoral court has reserved judgement in an urgent application filed by independent candidate presidential candidate Dr Panduleni Itula against the use of EVMs in next week’s national elections. The Electoral Tribunal will on Monday decide whether to block or allow the use of the EVMs in the elections.
The use of EVMs is authorised by the Electoral Act 5 of 2014. The law requires the presiding officer for each polling station to make sure the voting machines are cleared of any votes before the poll begins. Mujoro explained the presiding officer must allow political party election agents and accredited observers to inspect the voting machines if they wish, and then close and seal them.
The ECN is deploying a total of 2 277 polling teams for next week’s elections. In addition, the Commission has also established 4 241 polling stations, including 1 410 fixed and 2 831 mobile stations. Polling officials are currently undergoing training. Mujoro stated approximately 16 668 officials have been recruited for the elections, saying the selection is based on academic qualifications and work experience.