04 Jul 2013 09:50
WINDHOEK, 04 JUL (NAMPA) - The Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) has officially commenced training and voter education on the Electronic Voting Machines (EVM), which are expected to be used in next year?s national elections.
The ECN acquired the EVMs from India at a cost of N.dollars 22 million in 2011.
Speaking at the official launch of the national roll-out of the training, voter education and publicity programme on the EVMs here on Thursday, ECN chairperson Advocate Notemba Tjipueja said elections ?should be about results known within hours of polling stations closing, minimising long hours, queues and days of counting?.
?The declaration of results takes too long because of the manual counting of ballot papers, which is cumbersome and time-consuming,? she stated.
Tjipueja indicated that unwarranted claims of unlawful activities and malpractices are often levelled against election officials and the entire ECN during the time between voting and the announcement of results, and this is a concern, hence the ECN?s support for the EVMs.
The electronic voting machines will secure the announcement of results at polling stations immediately after the closing of the polls, and the results of the entire election in a matter of hours.
?The ECN is currently hosting engineers from Bharat Electronics Limited, the Indian state-owned company based in Bangalore in India which manufactured the EVMs, to enable stakeholders to receive first-hand demonstrations on the operations and functioning of the EVMs,? Tjipueja said, adding that the system automates the electoral process, thereby avoiding the normal pitfalls of conventional balloting such as spoilt and rejected votes as well as recounting.
Another advantage is that costs will be cut as ballot papers and ballot boxes are eliminated from the process, while the required manpower deployed for the conducting of elections is also drastically reduced.
The machines have a lifespan of 15 to 40 years.
In preparation for the forthcoming general registration of voters which will take place in the next few months, Tjipueja said the ECN is in the process of recruiting two chief trainers per constituency to carry out activities related to the programme at regional level.
Meanwhile, the ECN chairperson said the EVMs acquired by Namibia are customised in a manner that complies with all legal requirements of the Electoral Act of 1992, as amended.
Some of the customised features designed and implemented for Namibia are the capability of the machines to conduct dual elections simultaneously, as well as a facility for the voter to change their selection before confirmation of the vote.
Other features include the selection of candidates based on one out of many, and a tabulation facility for proportional voting.
?The machines are user-friendly, and cannot be tampered with,? Tjipueja stressed.
The Congress of Democrats? (CoD) Secretary-General Tsudao Gurirab, who also attended the event, told Nampa shortly after the launch most elections are challenged, and he believes the EVMs will address that problem, in addition to addressing the amount of time it takes to announce election results.
?If the machines address those two issues, then I think we are on the right path. You will recall the last elections we had, it took six days to get the results, and we are only about one million voters. We should now get results within hours,? Gurirab stated.
On her part, Khomas Regional Governor Laura McLeod-Katjirua wanted to know how members of the community who are illiterate will be brought on board with the introduction of the EVMs.
ECN Director Moses Ndjarakana responded that the ECN?s laws make provision for assisted voting, meaning a person who is illiterate can choose a person who can assist them, and normally this person is a relative, someone from the same party or an election official.