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Botswana: political storm over electronic voting tech

Botswana: political storm over electronic voting tech

Botswana's President Ian Khama has signed the Electoral Amendment Bill of 2016, a revision of the existing Electoral Act that paves the way for the introduction of electronic voting machines (EVMs) ahead of the country's general elections in 2019.

The government believes the move will lead to improvements covering the registration of voters and preparation of rolls, including deleting provisions for supplementary rolls.

However, opposition parties are concerned about the development and claim EVMs are open to security breaches and manipulation.

Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) secretary Moeti Mohwasa said his party's research showed that EVMs have been banned in several countries including Netherlands, Ireland, Paraguay and Germany. "EVMs were banned because they distort democracy, they can be manipulated and hacked. That is why we are suspicious of the machines," he said.

Botswana Congress Party Publicity Secretary Dithapelo Keorapetse said opposition political leaders will stand firm and not allow EVM to affect integrity of the country's elections. "There can never be elections in Botswana that will be rigged, the BCP will not allow that and we promise that BCP will do all it can to make sure that 2019 elections reflect the will of Batswana," said Keorapetse.

Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) Secretary Gabriel Seeletso said the machines will have a paper trail to be used for verification and to help resolve disputes, and refuted media reports that the technology had already been procured from India.

"We are still working on the specifications on machines that we want. It is not true that IEC has already found the electronic voting machines," said Seeletso.

The IEC official added that the regulatory body has embarked on a national public awareness campaign centred on EVM technology to engage with political parties, the media and potential voters.

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