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Nominal response in mock voting

  • Published at 11:24 pm January 30th, 2020

The presiding officer can assist only 1% voters to cast vote

A nominal presence has been seen in the final mock voting held at all polling centers prior to the city corporation elections.

Some polling centers even experienced a zero presence of voters during the mock polls,which were held between 12 noon and 7pm on Thursday, following a pre-scheduled arrangement, said presiding officers on condition of anonymity. 

To get more voters in the demonstration program, the time was reset until 9pm unofficially on Thursday afternoon.

Udayan High School Assistant Presiding Officer Sakline Hossain said: "Some voters came with their National Identification Cards (NID) which were not accepted by the machine. We guess they were voters from another polling center nearby and were not enlisted here.” 

"Till now nobody has been successful in using the EVM," he said at 2:30pm, two and a half hours after the mock voting started. 

No voters were seen at the Public Library Centre in Shahbagh in the afternoon. 

"Only one voter came to this polling centre to participate at the demonstration around 4pm," said Anisur Rahman, presiding officer at New Model Degree College center. 

He thought people had not been informed properly about the mock voting program.

Mock Voting before the Dhaka city polls at Brothers Club on Thursday, January 30, 2020 | Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

Brig Gen Shahadat said: "To inform voters about the EVM, an extensive campaign was conducted. We are also airing television commercials, running advertisements in newspapers and holding awareness programs at schools to make the voters aware." 

"Despite the process of EVM being easy, many voters are not accustomed to the technology. So, if they participate in the mock voting the process would be easier to them,” he added.

EVM experience

"I learnt about the EVM voting process, it is easy. I think without support from the polling staff none can rig  votes, which is what I have learnt in the process," said Tanusree Das, after taking part in the demonstration at Rajdhani High School.  

However, many voters claimed that they had no idea about the electronic voting system. 

"I have no idea of how EVM works, but I am confident I can do it as others have done it," said Maidul Hasan, a banker. 

"I have never cast my vote on EVM and I am still confused about how to vote," said Arifa Sultana, a housekeeper who has decided to cast her vote on February 1.

"The vote casting process will be slower for people who have no idea of the EVM and forget to bring NIDs or voter numbers. Moreover, we have seen that fingerprints do not match in many cases," said Anisur Rahman, presiding officer at New Model Degree College center. 

"We have been ordered by the Election Commission to assist only 1% of voters to cast their votes if they are identified as valid voters," he added.

According to the commission, the presiding officer can assist 1% of voters to cast votes and another 1% with permission from the returning officer. 

The returning officers have discussed increasing the percentage if technical or mechanical problem interrupts the voting system at polling centers. 

Mock Voting before the Dhaka city polls at Brothers Club on Thursday, January 30, 2020 | Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

The Election Commission has installed 35,000 EVMs at 2,468 polling centers for use in the Dhaka polls. One machine will be used in each of the 14,600 polling booths and another one will be on standby. 

Besides, two army technicians will be deployed in each of the 2,468 polling centers on the day of the election.

Vote rigging

The BNP and Communist Party of Bangladesh have opposed the EVM, saying it was a digital tool for robbing votes. The ruling Awami League, however, is backing the commission.

On December 25, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) KM Nurul Huda said EVMs would not be used if there were objections, but later stepped back from what he said. 

"There is no scope for silent vote rigging. We have used the EVMs in the parliamentary, local government and city corporation elections. Voters or candidates did not raise such allegations then," the CEC said on January 6.

The Election Commission (EC) is now completely prepared to hold voting using Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) for the first time in the bifurcated Dhaka city corporation polls. 

Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) and Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) polls are scheduled to be held on February 1.

Earlier, the commission held the voting in Dhaka city manually or by adopting mixed methods. It is a big test for the commission as it is the first major EVM-only polls in the country so far.

The Election Commission first used EVMs in the Comilla City Corporation polls in 2012.  In the 2015 Rajshahi City Corporation election, some machines stopped working on voting day, prompting the commission not to use them further. Instead, the commission took up an around Tk4,000 crore project to buy new EVMs.

At the December 30, 2018 parliamentary polls, the commission used EVMs in six constituencies, including Dhaka 6.

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