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Dhaka Tribune

The controversy-riddled history of EVMs in Bangladesh

Allegations of vote rigging and information leaks, complications with fingerprints, and slow voting are just some of the problems that came up in polls with EVMs

Update : 25 Jan 2023, 09:52 AM

Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) have been plagued with controversy in Bangladesh elections ever since they were introduced. Allegations of vote rigging and information leaks, complications with fingerprints, and slow voting are just some of the problems that came up in polls with EVMs.

During the Rangpur City Corporation elections on December 27 last year, voting began three hours behind schedule due to complications with EVMs. Many voters returned home without voting due to the delay.

Earlier. on October 12, voting in the Gaibandha-5 constituency polls had to be stopped due to allegations of irregularities and rigging with EVMs.

The Comilla City Corporation election was held on June 15 last year. Monirul Haque Sakku, seeking the office of mayor as an independent candidate, complained of rigging in this election as well.

In the complaint, he said: "The returning officer stopped the declaration of results after receiving a phone call, when it was shown that I was leading in the results declared at 101 centers. Then he changed the result."

On January 20, 2022, the city corporation elections in Narayanganj were declared successful, but only 48% of voters cast their ballots. Advocate Taimur Alam Khandkar, who stood as an independent candidate from the BNP, complained of vote rigging through use of EVMs.

Voters also complained about machines being down, complications with fingerprints, slowness of machines, and leakage of voting data.

Asking to remain anonymous, one voter said: “I cast my vote through an EVM in the city corporation election at a centre in Narayanganj last year. Recently, a person named Swapan published the voting information of some people, including me, along with the name of the candidate on my Facebook timeline. Later, when I asked him about this, he admitted to doing it.”

What do EC, EVM experts say about  information leak?

An official of the Information and Technology Department of the Bangladesh Election Commission said: “Everything is possible now with the use of technology. It is also possible to know which candidate the voter is voting for through EVMs, If the coding is used that way. EVM experts can explain this better.”

On condition of anonymity, an expert of BUET who works on EVMs said it would be possible to extract the information of voters from the machines if the voter's information was coded into the system in advance.

However, BUET computer science and engineering department teacher and Election Commission EVM technical committee member Prof Muhammad Mahfuzul Islam said it was not possible to extract voter data from EVMs in any way.

“Just as it is not possible to reveal the identity of the voter when using ballot papers, it is also not possible to find out which voter is voting for which candidate through EVMs,” he added.

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