Electronic voting machines should disappear

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The fact that MANY voters did not exercise their right to vote due to technical errors in the electronic voting machines during the sixth phase of the current union council elections brings to the fore the old controversy in which the machines have been bogged down since their introduction in 2007. Electronic voting machines were used when polling 216 of the 218 union councils on 31 January. Voter turnout, as the electoral commission says, was about 15% lower than in the previous five rounds. Many field workers reportedly raised issues of technical errors and difficulties associated with the machines. In the Narayanganj city government elections held on January 16 that used the machines, controversy also erupted. Experts and many political parties have therefore always opposed the use of electronic voting machines. In a discussion organized by the Center for Policy Dialogue on January 22, participants criticized the electronic voting system on several points, including the possibilities of manipulation.

Most political parties also continued to express concern about electronic voting machines while voters expressed their lack of confidence in the system, which could be manipulated in a number of ways. In electronic voting systems, there is the possibility of programmatic manipulation and there is no way to review or verify the votes cast using the machines. Electoral authorities now allow presidents to cast up to 25% of votes on behalf of voters in the event of a fingerprint mismatch, which only widens the scope for manipulation. In a country like Bangladesh, where a large number of people are digitally illiterate and afraid of machines, electronic voting machines remain a questionable choice. Many countries around the world have rejected electronic voting machines. After 2007, these machines were gradually used in local government elections and were used in the 2018 general elections on a limited scale. The use of controversial devices that have failed to gain the trust of voters and political parties is likely to further damage electoral culture and credibility.

While the overall electoral culture has deteriorated sharply, with the last two general elections being very unparticipatory and partisan control of polling stations, intimidation of electoral officials from parties outside the ruling camp, obstruction of voters and assisted voting have come to characterize the electoral culture, it is imperative that the Electoral Commission make the elections free, fair and transparent. In doing so, the commission must remove electronic voting machines.

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