Though the Commission had a plan to hold all district sadar upazila polls with EVMs, the Election Commission has announced to use the machines in only 10 upazila parishads in the 3rd and 4th phases of the upazila elections
The Election Commission is going to use electronic voting machines (EVMs) now on a very small scale in the 5th upazila election which will be completed countrywide, in five phases.
Though the Commission had a plan to hold all district sadar upazila polls with EVMs, the Election Commission has announced to use the machines in only 10 upazila parishads in the 3rd and 4th phases of the upazila elections.
The polls to four upazila parishads in the second phase and six upazila parishads in the third phase will be completely with EVMs instead of traditional ballot papers, said EC Secretary Helaluddin Ahmed on Saturday.
"But the Commission has yet to take the decision whether the EVMs will be used in the fifth and final phases," he told UNB.
The 10 upazilas are Rangpur Sadar, Gopalganj Sadar, Manikganj Sadar and Meherpur Sadar of the third phase, and Cox's Bazar Sadar, Patuakhali Sadar, Mymensingh Sadar, Bagerhat Sadar, Munshiganj Sadar and Feni Sadar of the fourth phase election.
The third and fourth phases of the election will be held in 117 upazila parishads on March 24 (Sunday) and 122 upazila parishads on March 31.
This time the Election Commission will complete the elections to some 480 upazilas, out of 492, in five phases. The Election Commission has already arranged the first two phases of the elections on March 10 and 18.
Introduction of EVMs
In February, the Election Commission enacted the Upazila Parishad Election (Electronic Voting Machine) Rules 2019 to pave the way for introducing the use of the new technology in upazila elections.
Just three months before the 11th general election, the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) approved a Tk3,825.34 crore project to procure 1.5 lakh EVMs.
In the December-30 parliamentary polls, the newly designed EVMs were used in six constituencies--Dhaka-6 and-13, Chattogram-9, Rangpur-3, Khulna-2 and Satkhira--6out of the country's total 300 seats.
On January 14, the Election Commission Secretary said the Election Commission decided to use the EVMs in all district sadar upazilas across the country, but on February 18 he said the EVMs machines will be used in the sadar upazilas in the last three phases.
EVMs use increases election cost
The Election Commission officials said the use of EVMs may cost Tk130 crore this time, which partially contributed to increasing the total election cost.
The Election Commission has estimated that more than Tk750 crore will be spent on arranging the 5th upazila election, which is the double of the cost of the 4th upazila polls arranged in 2014.
Of the estimated cost, the officials said about Tk450 crore will be spent on maintaining law and order, while the remaining Tk300 crore will be used to conduct the election.
In 2014, the EC had to spend some Tk373 crore to arrange the 4th upazila election held in six phases.
In 2009, a total of Tk133 crore was spent on arranging the 3rd countrywide upazila election that was held in a single day.
In 2010, the ATM Shamsul Huda-led Election Commission first used old-featured EVMs on a pilot basis at a few polling stations in the Chittagong City Corporation election. The EVMs were jointly made by Bangladesh Machine Tools Factory and Buet in 2009 and 2011.
Later, the EVMs were used partially in different local elections. In January, 2011, the Cumilla City Corporation election was held with EVMs in its entirety.
In 2012, the Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmad-led Commission decided not to use EVMs in the 10th national election due to the chance of technical errors amid strong opposition from BNP and some other political parties.
Assuming office in February 2017, the incumbent commission had taken a plan to use the newly-designed EVMs instead of the old-ones in the election and finally started procuring the newly designed EVMs before the 11th national election.