The Election Commission's plan to use Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in the next general election is surprising, given the very little time at hand to handle a logistical challenge of this scale. And even before finalising whether EVM would be at all used in the general election, Tk 3,515 crore has already been allocated for the procurement of 1.5 lakh EVMs and other necessary equipment. There are several aspects that raise questions.
First of all, the timing of the move is startling. Why now? With only four months to go before the national election, introducing a completely new method of voting in one-third of the constituencies, involving around three crore voters, is not a practicable proposition at all.
Secondly, apart from the regulatory aspect, which can be addressed quickly, there is also an equally, if not more, important factor—that of the issue of making the voters familiar with this system, most of whom, it must be admitted, are not electronic equipment savvy. One wonders how many fairs can be arranged within the time available before the election to promote the use of EVM and generate voter confidence in the system. Even in India, it was after several decades of tests and trials that EVMs were used in large scale. Why were not such extensive trials conducted?
Thirdly, given the prevailing mistrust among political parties, there is a risk that introducing a new system may further erode the confidence of the voters in the electoral system. It seems rather ludicrous that the EC would go for such a huge expenditure without being sure that the EVMs would be used at all, since it depends on the outcome of EC's consultations with the political parties at some future point in time. While we are all for digitalisation of the voting mechanism, we feel that the plan is not implementable in such a short time.