Friday, October 30, 2020

State may lose star witness in EVM case

Botswana government is having difficulties convincing the Election Commission of India to come in as a star witness and depose an affidavit on the credibility of Electronic Voting Machines.

The testimony by the Indian electoral body is believed to be crucial to the Botswana government’s case in which they are defending a legal challenge by Botswana Congress Party before Justice Lot Moroka in Francistown.

A delegation from the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) visited the Nirvachan Sadan, headquarters of Election Commission of India last week to try and convince their Indian counterparts to depose before the Francistown High Court on the merits of using the EVM. The IEC delegation further asked Election Commission of India to dispatch 4-5 EVMs to Botswana and hold a demonstration of the EVM and voter verifiable paper audit trails (VVPAT) in court to dispel doubts over the credibility of the machines.

Indian newspapers reported this week that the Election Commission of India finds itself in a difficult position to accede to the Botswana request because of the debate in India over the credibility of the EVMs. Besides, the Election Commission of India has publicly admitted to large-scale malfunctioning of the electronic voting machines and voter verifiable paper audit trails when they were used for just four Lok Sabha and ten Assembly by-elections.

The poll body admitted to replacing 96 balloting units and 84 control units and 1,202 VVPATs, attributing it to excessive heat conditions.

The Indian media reported this week that, the full Election Commission would meet soon to take a decision on a challenge to the EVMs coming from Botswana which had taken its help to switch over to the electronic voting in its general elections in October next year. The Election Commission of India is however reported to be in a bind over Botswana’s request as any negative outcome at the Francistown High Court could reignite the Indian opposition’s demand to revert back to manual counting of paper votes.

IEC has been in discussions with Election Commission of India for the past six months over the issue

The BCP has taken the Botswana government to court demanding that all sections of the Electoral (Amendment) Act No. 7 of 2016 which provide for the replacement of voting by Ballot Paper by EVMs be declared unconstitutional and in violation of Section 32 (3) (c) of the Constitution of Botswana. The party further argues that Section 6 of the Electoral (Amendment) Act No.7 of 2016 which replaced Section 8 of the Electoral Act thereby abolishing continuous and supplementary registration of voters is unconstitutional and violates Section 67 of the Constitution of Botswana.  Justice Lot Moroka has set the case for August 1, 2018 for status hearing.

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