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ECZ lines up electronic voting

THE Electoral Commission of Zambia says the submission by the Socialist Party on electronic voting systems is timely and will be considered.

In a letter to ECZ chief executive officer Kryticous Patrick Nshindano dated January 5, 2022 Socialist Party leader Fred M’membe urged the electoral body to “seriously and urgently” consider introducing electronic voting systems before the 2026 elections.

Dr M’membe said electronic voting technology intends to speed the counting of ballots, reduce the cost of paying staff to count votes manually and can provide improved accessibility for disabled voters.

“Also in the long term, expenses are expected to decrease. Results can be reported and published faster. And it is important to keep in mind that electronic voting isn’t online voting; it’s simply a faster way of tabulating votes,” Dr M’membe said in the letter also copied to ECZ chairperson justice Esau Chulu and vice-chairperson Emily Sikazwe.

He noted that some countries with large populations and complex political systems shifted to electronic ballot technology many years ago.

“I know we have been led to distrust anything electronic in voting. But spending some time learning about international experience might be helpful to change this perception. In India and in Brazil, results have been very positive so far,” Dr M’membe said. “Brazil has about 150 million voters. In the 2018 presidential election, they announced the winner only two hours and 16 minutes after the polls were closed. By that time, they had already counted 96.7 per cent of all votes cast all over the country. Brazilians adopted electronic ballots for the first time in 1996. And no fraud has been confirmed so far. They run public tests every electoral year.”

He said in India, electronic voting machines have been part of the electoral process since 2001 and were used in all general and state assembly elections.

“According to the Brookings Institution India Centre, the introduction of electronic voting machines reduced electoral fraud, made the electoral process more competitive in regions where the winning margins were short and led to a decline in crimes related to the election process. And last year South Africa’s Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) introduced electronic voting in its local government elections. The IEC described these local government elections as the most ‘technologically advanced’,” Dr M’membe noted.

He added that electronic voting systems are also being used in Pakistan, Australia, Belgium, Estonia, France, Germany, Italy, Namibia, the Netherlands, Norway, Peru, Switzerland, Panama, Venezuela, and the Philippines, among other countries.

He said it was probably time to seriously consider how effective electronic balloting is in other countries, and consider adopting it in Zambia.

“We have enough time to master it before the 2026 elections if we start now,” said Dr M’membe.

In the Commission’s response to Dr M’membe’s suggestion, Nshindano said electronic voting is one of initiatives lined up for implementation.

“I acknowledge receipt with thanks your letter dated 5th January, 2022 on the above subject matter (Electronic voting). We wish to inform you that electronic voting is one of the initiatives lined up for implementation and that the submission is timely and will be duly considered by the Commission,” said Nshindano.

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