September 20: Whenever there is an election in Nepal, the issue of using electronic voting machine becomes the topic of hot debate. After the election, this issue gets overshadowed for the next five years.
It is not logical to argue that the electronic voting machine, which was used in the first Constituent Assembly election in 2008, cannot be used now. In the last 15 years, many things have been digitalized with new innovations in the field of information and technology. However, the Government of Nepal and the Election Commission are heading in the opposite direction as far as voting is concerned.
Electronic voting machines are now being used even in the general conventions of many political parties. If so, why can't the voting machine be used in the national elections?
People are not very hopeful that voting machines will be used when the parties in power do not want to use them. However, the use of electronic voting machines is now not only a necessity but also a compulsion to prevent billions of rupees from flowing out of the country during election at a time when the pressure on the foreign exchange reserves persists and the overall economic indicators are not positive.
By using electronic equipment, voting is done faster and the results are also faster. There is no need to stay awake all night to count votes or surround the polling stations with wire netting for the fear of rigging.
The Election Commission had formed a taskforce comprising team of experts under the coordination of Anil Kumar Dutta, joint secretary of the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology, to conduct a feasibility study for using electronic voting system. The taskforce submitted the feasibility study report to the commission within one week recommending the use of electronic voting machines for the local election because such machines are being used in internal elections of political parties. The taskforce suggested that electronic voting can be done using machines made in Nepal, India or machines made in any other country.
Even though the study team submitted its report, the Election Commission got stuck in the issue of verification of the machine. As a result, electronic voting machines were not used even in one municipality in the recently held local elections.
Electronic voting system is associated with the modernization of election. Such system is in place even in neighbouring India.
The Election Commission take the political parties into confidence to vote electronically. This is because even now, when they lose the election, they still have believe that they can win by tampering with the ballot paper or the ballot boxes.