… as electoral technology gets out of hand at various polling stations
By Megameno Shikwambi
The latest electoral tribunal judgement which greenlighted the Electoral Commission of Namibia to make use of the electronic voting machines should not put the vote counting body into comfort mode, prominent lawyer Norman Tjombe said this week.
ECN won a court ruling against Independent Candidate Panduleni Itula twice, first at the tribunal and lastly at the electoral court, thus setting aside a possible postponement of the elections which roared to life on November 27th.
However, Tjombe cautioned that ECN must immediately begin to work on making sure that there is a provision of the Voter Verified Audit Paper Trail (VVPAT).
The vote counting body is bracing to hold another round of elections for local authorities in a few weeks’ time and already the technology used in the previous elections has been put to question.
Reports of the machines failing to function normally went viral on the polling day leading to delays at certain polling stations with some voters failing to vote by the 21hr00 deadline.
“As a matter of urgency, immediately after this election they must now start having the process that every vote cast has a paper trail. Secondly, they must sort out their systems where they just don’t lend EVMs to private people.
That’s just unacceptable. If they have to do it, but I don’t think legally speaking they can do that, because it is an asset of the government.
You can’t just borrow property of the government but if they have to do it they must make sure that there is appropriate security with the EVMs.
Wherever they (EVMs) are going there must be officials of the ECN and probably police officers who are guarding these machines and make sure that they are returned in good order,” said the lawyer.
Tjombe said the matter of the lost EVMs which made headlines a couple of weeks ago, is one ECN “should be ashamed of and they must immediately attend to it to make sure that procurement systems are in place that prevent this from happening again”.
Will ECN use EVMs in coming by-elections?
Given the glitches EVMs and other technologies employed by the ECN during the last round of National Assembly and Presidential elections, the question is whether the vote counting body will use the same.
The by-elections will be held in Oshikuku, Walvis Bay urban, Keetmanshoop urban, Khomasdal and Gobabis.
ECN has already completed the supplementary registration in the five localities from the 1st to the 2nd of November. But the voter turnout was poor, Mujoro admitted. “We were not surprised because a good majority of our voters were already registered just a few months ago in July.
For that reason we did not expect a lot of numbers in terms of the people that would come to be registered as voters on the 1st and 2nd of November.
In terms of the schedule the nomination starts on the 21st of November and it closes on the 6th of December for the five by-elections.
“It sounds a bit messy and confusing but that is what happens when you are forced to run elections simultaneously because there are overlaps and a lot of confusion.
The election day, for these five by-elections was determined to be on the 15th of January 2020.
The law says if a vacancy occurs in particular constituency the electoral commission has only 90 days within which to conduct a by-election.
That is why we were forced to start running that process already in as much as we are focused on the national election schedule. I think we are on course,” he said.
Mujoro did say they will try to keep the nation informed “in the midst of all this confusion”.
“You know when you register voters, you register for a particular election that you are preparing for.
And when you conduct a supplementary registration of voters’ process, it has a beginning and an end. It has a cut off date.
Let’s take the national supplementary. It started on the 8th of July and it completed on the 27th of July.
And we had to run the provisional voters register through a number of integrity processes.
So a person who turns 18 years after the 27th of July, there is no way they could be registered and participate in the forthcoming national elections because the registration process started and ended at the time when they were not 18 years yet,” he explained.
Mujoro added that in the five constituencies, there are number of people who went to register because they turned 18 years before the 1st of November as first time registered voters.
However, as they appeared nowhere on the national voters register, which has already been synced, they were barred from taking part in the November 27th elections.
“Why? Because they will not be appearing on the voters’ register.
By the way when you carefully analyse the details on the voters’ cards, the voter registration number tells a story in terms of when you were registered.
So we have enough safeguards to make sure that people who were registered on the 1st and 2nd of November would not have been able to vote on the 27th because they can only vote on the 15th of January because those are the elections that they registered for and obviously all the other subsequent elections going forward,” he clarified.