Although most of the political parties are against using Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in the national and local government elections, the Election Commission has taken a step to buy more – apparently an improved and updated version – of these machines.
The commission has already written to the state-owned Bangladesh Machine Tools Factory Ltd (BMTF) to buy 2,535 EVMs.
Sources said the commission will purchase 2,535 EVMs now, and has plans to buy 5,000 to 10,000 more.
According to sources, most parties voiced their concern and were against use of EVMs during their dialogues with the commission. But the commission apparently is going to buy more EVMs without paying any heed to their opinions.
Election Commission officials said a seven-member committee, led by Secretary Helaluddin Ahmed, has already been formed to evaluate the tenders or proposals before purchasing and collecting the new EVMs, which will have a number of benefits compared to the old ones, ahead of and during different polls.
Helaluddin said: “These new and more secure EVMs will be used in the next five city corporation polls on an experimental basis. If the results are positive, then they will be used in the national election.”
The current version of the EVMs had a number of problems and risks, including no system of keeping records of voting papers and no system testing voters’ identities and fingerprints.
They also were unable to publish the results of the vote due to mechanical error in the control unit and had some battery related issues.
Sources said each of the new EVM might cost Tk2 lakh as they would have latest technologies.
Director General of the commission’s National Identity Registration Wing Brig Gen Mohammad Saidul Islam, however, brushed off the lack of confidence of different political parties, including BNP, on use of EVMs.
He said: “We will use high quality features in the new EVMs. The world is going forward using latest technology. Why should we lag behind?
“They (parties) will come around once they see these working. Moreover, we will challenge anyone to find the faults in them. These machines will be more sophisticated and have new hardware and software, projector motherboard, fingerprint scanner and ballot linkup, among other features. There will be no chance for foul play.”
He also said prices of these different components vary and they were yet to determine how much each EVM would cost, adding that they have asked BMTF to submit a proposal to this regard.
Saidul said the high-level 19-member committee formed to oversee this plan would have members from Dhaka University, Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology and Bangladesh Computer Council. “The committee will finalize the logical cost of these EVMs. This is still in the experimental phase. The government will pay for these new EVMs.”
He said: “We will partially use these EVMs during the Gazipur and Khulna city corporation polls, and later in other cities. We think people will like them.”