The Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) has been taken to task and queried on how the nation can take the election results seriously with the knowledge that there are missing voting machines, which could be used to cast illegitimate votes as well as number of other thorny issues, which undermine the reliability of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs).
With just 35 days to go to the National Elections, the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) today hosted a Civil Society Organization workshop to update civil society on the preparedness of the ECN on the 2019 elections Speaking at the meeting various members of civil society voiced concerns on whether or not the current missing four electronic machines could be used for casting illegitimate votes.
In the same breath, an election presiding officer present at the event also questioned the ECNs practice of borrowing EVMs to political parties, stating that he is against it as it affects the transparency and integrity of the voting equipment Responding to this, Chief Electoral Officer and Referenda Officer, Theo Mujoro however stated that the nation can rest assured, as there is no way for the missing EVMs to be introduced during the upcoming elections and go undetected as every machine has serial number designated to them and which polling stations they are deployed to.
It was also noted that any election ballot paper printed out reflects the serial number of the EVM used.
The ECN further assured that there are available records, which show who the missing voting machines were booked out and request letters.
“It is important to note that this matter is still under police investigation and one machine which was successfully retrieved is under police custody at the Otjiwarango Police station” Mujoro said.
He further contested that loaning out equipment is a long-standing practice as churches, trade unions and political parties use these EVMs for internal elections. He defended that the lending out of voting machines also forms as an integral part of disseminating voter education.
The commission was also queried on why the ECN is hell-bent on the use of EVMs while currently the commission does not have a Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT).
The VVPAT allows for verification of votes through a receipt that serves as proof that the vote cast was for a particular political party or candidate and is mandated by the.
Electoral Act 5 of 2014 to accompany EVMs during elections.
The chairperson of the ECN, Notemba Tjipueja defended that whilst the VVPAT system is mandated by law to accompany EVMs in the election process, for the Financial Year 2019/2020, there was no budget for funding of the VVPAT system albeit the fact that the ECN brought forth a budget to government and the cost involved for this vital element.
Mujoro also supplemented that the polling station results will go through a rigorous verification process as a number of politicians from different representative parties will be allowed to witness the counting of results published at collation centres at constituency level as well as at the Central Election Results Centre (CERC), which will be located at the ECN head office.
The CERC is a central election management platform where constituency level results from collation centres are certified, consolidated and aggregated to national level results.
Mujoro further stated that the ECN has taken the voters register through integrity checks by removing duplicate voter names as well as names of deceased persons.
He added that all this is done through a biometric finger print system which verifies voter information.
The final voter register will be certified by the commission next week and will be published in the government gazette on 6 November.