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EVMs: Education is key

Publishing Date : 22 May, 2017

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From the debate that was held at Masa hotel on Thursday evening, it is evident that politicians have indeed politicized the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) debate, understandably so. We realized that the panelists took some time on the subject of who proposed the idea of EVMs. It is a blame game at this stage.

Almost all parties, including the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) are disowning the project. In fact they are only implementing. We still hold that the real substance lies in whose interest is the Independent electoral Commission (IEC) procuring Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs)? The answer is in plain sight – Batswana, the people who do the actual voting. In this case we are of the view that voters, as the intended customers, should have the buy-in of the machines, they must understand them, and be knowledgeable on how to use the same. Any decision to amend the Electoral Law should have their interests of voters as the foundation.

The proposed procurement of EVMs could have been an attempt to embrace technology and maybe improve our election processes, but by all accounts, critical stakeholders seem not ready for the EVMs. The only two key stakeholders who are holding dear to EVMs are the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and the IEC. However, Botsalo Ntuane of the BDP made it clear during the debate that the BDP will follow what Batswana want, EVMs or no EVMs.   

The antagonists to the rushed implementation of the EVMs have raised concerns around issues of trust and transparency, verifiability and accountability, reliability and security of the proposed Electronic Voting Machines. The experts were here to demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed machines this week, albeit their attempts were not enough because the opposition boycotted the demonstration. But still, there were more questions than answers. Maybe we do need to push too hard, the IEC could take more time to involve people on the ground, and there shouldn’t be any hurry.

It is evident that a number of places rejected the Electronic Voting Machines during the post law enactment consultation process by the IEC. They could have rejected the move purely because they were not consulted on the Voting Machines at the initial stage of the process hence they lacked crucial knowledge that could have allowed them a better thought process.


Or just that they do not have faith on the Machines, and they want to stick to what they already know, the ballot. Therefore, education remains key. We do not think rejecting the EVMs purely on political expediency is enough! There is a chance EVMs could enhance our political process or democracy. But we still lack the how part of it.

We agree that Batswana should first have confidence in the e-voting system or the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) before they can buy into it. It is evident that they trust the current electoral system, because it has worked for them, we have held peaceful elections from 1965 to date. Our view is that government should take baby steps to sell the e-voting system.

“Fostering transparent practices is a key element in building public trust and confidence. Transparency about the e-voting system, the details of different electoral procedures and the reasons for introducing e-voting will contribute to voters’ knowledge and understanding, thereby generating trust and confidence among the general public.” We agree with this statement from the organizers (Botswana Council of Non-Governmental Organizations (BOCONGO) and Friedrich Ebert Foundation) of a panel discussion that was held this week on the subject of e-voting. The reaction of most Batswana to the EVMs point to a lack of trust and understanding. The discussions at the Masa hotel on the e-voting should shed light on the subject.    

Ofcourse, political posturing from across the divide has made, “The introduction of EVMs certainly the most controversial decision relating to our political processes that has ever been taken by a Botswana Government since independence in 1966. The somewhat negative reaction to EVMs has been so widespread that it would be extremely unwise and dangerous for the Government to ignore it.”

It is a fact that the process which decides how people are going to cast their votes is too important to be decided by government alone. The IEC or indeed Government should continue to conduct a robust consultation process with stakeholders such as political parties, civil society organisations, trade unions, and Batswana in general before the law was passed. We are of the view that basics should be done if the implementation of the e-voting system is to find favour with Batswana.



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