Electronic voting machines can’t be hacked: Shibli

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Minister for Science and Technology Shibli Faraz said on Wednesday that electronic voting machines (EVMs) could not be hacked and were the best solution to problems of rigging during polls.

Addressing a media briefing at Parliament House in Islamabad, where the government had scheduled a demonstration of EVMs for lawmakers, the science minister assured everyone that the machines “couldn’t be hacked or riddled with bugs” since they were not connected to the internet, dependent on mechanisms such as Bluetooth, WiFi or an operating system.

He hailed EVMs as the solution to rigging during and after elections. Through electronic voting, Faraz added, elections would be transparent and their results immediate and trustable.

The science minister called upon lawmakers to come and test out the EVM on display to satisfy themselves.

He said it was up to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to decide whether the machines fulfilled the requirements, adding that the ECP was the only constitutional institution that could approve or reject them.

“We are coordinating with the ECP. Before or immediately after Muharram [we will demonstrate EVMs to the ECP], obviously it’s the biggest stakeholder,” he said.

He added that the government had tried to incorporate all the requirements of the ECP into the EVMs.

Responding to a number of questions on how EVMs functioned, Faraz said repeated votes were not possible, adding that EVMs were not connected with the National Database and Registration Authority.

He emphasised that voters would continue to be unidentifiable and that votes would not be verified through thumb impressions but voter lists instead.

“The machine will only decide the process of entering the vote,” he explained.

Faraz said three per cent of votes or a total of 1.8 million votes were wasted from all over the country during general elections and margins of victory often came down to one or two votes. EVMs would eliminate this waste, he said.

Meanwhile, National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser took to Twitter after testing the EVM out for himself, saying that technological advancements were “pivotal” to ensure transparency in the electoral process and strengthen democracy.

Last week, Prime Minister Imran Khan himself received a detailed presentation and a demonstration of a new locally made EVM.

Faraz said that the machine had been developed keeping in mind ground realities and in accordance with the specifications of the ECP, which had previously rejected the use of EVMs on technical grounds.

According to the minister, the new EVM was simple and user-friendly for voters as well as the polling staff and it would eliminate chances of rigging as it could not be bugged or hacked as it would have no operating system and would not be connected to the internet.

The ruling PTI has been pursuing the issue of the use of EVMs since the 2013 general elections. A prototype had first been shown off at Parliament House in May.

Earlier in May, the prime minister had invited the opposition to sit down with the government and participate in bringing electoral reforms such as the use of EVMs in order to restore the credibility of local polls.

In a series of tweets, the premier had said that after the NA-249 Karachi by-poll, all parties were “crying foul and claiming rigging”.

“Technology and the use of EVMs is the only answer to reclaim the credibility of elections. I invite the opposition to sit with us and select from EVM models we have available to restore the credibility of our elections,” he had tweeted.

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