Botswana Congress Party (BCP) under the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) will vehemently oppose the gazetted and matured Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill that intends to introduce Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) as a component of the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM).
According to BCP spokesperson, Dithapelo Keorapetse the party’s position is that VVPAT does not even remotely address their concerns about the dangers of EVM in democratic elections. He says it is not a solution but a problem in itself.
“The party has serious security, privacy and reliability as well as efficiency and effectiveness concerns about the envisaged VVPAT. We will raise these matters in Parliament and in court in August if the BDP dominated Parliament doesn’t rescind its decision to introduce EVM,” Keorapetse said.
It has been found in India and elsewhere that VVPAT compromises the secrecy of the vote when discrepancies are detected by the voter and addressed by the presiding electoral officers.
“The secrecy of the vote is a constitutional right which cannot be compromised unless in extraordinary circumstances of disability such as blindness. Manual VVPAT recounts and audits are tiresomely labour intensive and will take the IEC (the Independent Electoral Commission) right back to manual counting or worse, and defeat the purported intention of the EVMs. So why waste money anyway?”
He said the BCP is very much aware that malicious software can be infused into the VVPAT system to intentionally mis-record the voter’s choice. The printer can print while voters or agents are not observing in what would be “ballot stuffing” and it would be impossible to distinguish legitimate ballots from fraudulent ones.
“Alternatively the printer could invalidate the printed ballot after the voter leaves and print a new fraudulent ballot. VVPAT systems that are technically able to reverse the paper feed could be open to manipulated software overwriting or altering the VVPAT after the voter checks it.”
The BCP said the VVPAT of the EVM is also prone to technical malfunctions such as paper jams, battery failures, ink issues amongst other things. Moreover, experts contend that while VVPAT is designed to serve as a check on Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) vote recorders, it relies on the same proprietary programming and electronics to produce the audit trail.
“Surveys on voter behaviour conducted through video during an actual election revealed that most voters do not “verify” their choices by reading the VVPAT print outs and the possibility of cheating through hacking always exists, especially in marginal contests.”
Keorapetse said: “We will also push other amendments in Parliament to improve the country’s electoral process. In addition to amending the proposed Bill to remove both EVM and VVPAT, we will argue for counting of ballots at each polling station in line with SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections and the SADC Parliamentary Forum Model Law on Elections and other international benchmarks. We will put an amendment to restore supplementary election registration so safeguard the adult suffrage right”.
The party will argue for the permissible usage of the National Identity Card (Omang), passport and driver’s licence for both registration of elections and voting.
“We will contend the IEC arrangement to disenfranchise Batswana by turning away people who are duly registered and appear on the voters’ roll but are without a voting card but in possession of valid identity documents.”
The BCP contends that many young people are disenfranchised by deliberate hurdles put to bar youth who will be 18 on Election Day, but have not reached voting age at the time of registration. “We will therefore raise this matter in Parliament.
“We may look for such young people to take the IEC to court if BDP dominated Parliament doesn’t listen. Other issues include proposals to reduce money levied from parliamentary and council candidates and permission of the elderly, pregnant women, the sick and disabled and VIPs to apply for early voting.”
The BCP said it will fight until Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) abandons the EVM and the intended VVPAT which they argued would aid it to steal the vote. “We promise Batswana that no election will be stolen in 2019. We will strive to ensure that Botswana holds free, fair and credible elections which reflect the will of the people. The BCP yearns for the independence and efficiency and effectiveness of the IEC.”