Electronic voting machines (EVMs) are not just creating a stir in India, but kicking up a controversy in faraway Botswana, too. After news portals reported Indian EVMs would be tested at a hackathon in the southern African country, Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) — makers of the EVMs — said there were no such plans. It denied reports that its EVMs would figure in a hackathon organised on Friday by the Independent Election Commission of Botswana, a government body.
The portals reported that BEL had been invited to the hackathon to demonstrate how the EVMs worked. The reports prompted BEL to issue a statement saying it had not sold any EVMs or paper trail machines to Botswana’s Election Commission.
“The Botswana Election Commission has invited a team of BEL to show only the functionality of EVMs and VVPATS designed to meet the specific requirements of the Botswana government. These EVMs and VVPATS are different from the ones which are used by the Election Commission of India,” it said. Bel said there were no plans for holding a hackathon event with BEL’s EVMs.
The reference to EVMs in the press note issued by the Botswana Election Commission were “completely false and incorrect,” it said. According to a report published in www.itwebafrica.com, Botswana’s President Ian Khama had last year signed the Electoral Amendment Bill, 2016, a revision of the existing Electoral Act, paving the way for the introduction of EVMs.
The portal said the Botswana government believed this technology would improve several election-related processes such as registration of voters, preparation of rolls and deleting provisions for supplementary rolls. Opposition parties, however, were concerned about the development and claimed EVMs were open to security breaches, it said.
BEL, which is a public sector undertaking under the Ministry of Defence, and the Electronics Corporation of India Ltd, a PSU under the Department of Atomic Energy, are the two producers of EVMs and VVPATs for the Election Commission of India.
The Election Commission of India has challenged political parties to prove EVMs used in the recent assembly polls were tampered with, after several Opposition parties questioned their reliability and demanded a return to the paper ballot system.The planned challenge could take place later this month.