FRANCISTOWN: The day for arguments in the contentious issue of the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) during the 2019 general elections is getting nearer.
The matter, which will be presided over by Justice Lot Moroka of the Francistown High Court, has been set for roll call on June 15 after which other stages of the case will follow before the matter is set for argument.
The Attorney General (AG) has filed a Memorandum of Appearance to defend the use of the EVMs in the 2019 general elections.
Some political pundits believe the elections present the best chance for the opposition to finally dislodge the ruling BDP from power buoyed by the Botswana Congress Party (BCP)’s decision to join the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC).
According to the 2014 general elections polls, the combined votes of the UDC and BCP are more than those of theBotswana Democratic Party (BDP), which is in power because it holds the majority of parliamentary seats.
The BCP is of the view that the EVMs are prone to manipulation and can be hacked in favour of the BDP hence its abhorrence of the gadgets.
The AG, chairperson of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and secretary to the IEC respectively are cited as defendants in the matter.
In its first relief, the BCP says 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 be set aside and struck out.
The BCP also argues that all sections of the Electoral (Amendment) Act No. 7 of 2016 which provide for the replacement of voting by Ballot Paper with voting by EVMs be declared unconstitutional and in violation of Section 3 as read with Sections 12, 13 and 67 of the Constitution of the Republic of Botswana and hereby set aside and struck out.
It is also of the view that Section 6 of the Electoral (Amendment) Act No.7 of 2016 which has deleted Section 8 of the Electoral Act thereby abolishing continous and supplementary registration of voters is unconstitutional and violates Section 67 of the Constitution of Botswana be set aside and struck out.
Any action, the BCP argues, done in pursuance or in execution or intended execution of the aforesaid provisions of the Electoral (Amendment) Act
The BCP prays with the Court to order the defendants to pay the costs of the suit.
In their Memorandum of Appearance to defend filed by Matlhogonolo Phuthego on April 19, the AG says Section 32 (3) (c) of the Constitution of Botswana does not specifically prescribe the use of a Ballot Paper as a method of voting where the parliamentary election is contested in any constituency. The AG adds that therefore, voting by means of EVMs is one of the methods by which a ballot may be cast.
“Consequently, the AG denies that any of the provisions in the Electoral (Amendment) Act No. 7 of 2016, dealing with electronic voting violate Sections 32 (3) (c), 3, 12, 13 or any provision of the Constitution of Botswana. Voting by EVMs as envisaged in the Electoral (Amendment) Act No. 7 of 2016 constitutes voting by ballot.”
In its second ground to defend the use of AVMs, the AG says Sections 27, 28, 29, 30 and 32 of the Electoral (Amendment) Act No. 7 of 2016 make provision for paper trail, in so far as they provide for the recording of electronic votes and/or results in prescribed forms and verification by election, polling and counting agents.
“The EVMs only replaces the conventional voting method from the point of issuance of the ballot paper to depositing the same into the ballot while other processes remain unaltered,” says the AG.
In its third ground of defence, the AG submits that EVMs introduced through the Electoral (Amendment) Act No. 7 of 2016 will not be susceptible to hacking as they are stand alone non-internet supported gadgets.
Lastly, the AG says any person who is entitled to register as a voter but does not exercise such right during the registration period will on reading of the provisions of Section 67 (1) as read with subsection 5 thereof of the Constitution of Botswana is not entitled to vote during Parliamentary elections.
“Therefore, the AG denies that there is any provision in the Electoral (Amendment) Act No. 7 of 2016 which contravenes Section 67 of the Constitution of Botswana.”
The AG prays for the dismissal of the BCP suit with costs.