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Hackers invited to disrupt Botswana's electronic voting machines

Hackers invited to disrupt Botswana's electronic voting machines

Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) officials have invited hackers to prove whether or not the country's proposed electronic voting machine (EVM) system can be manipulated.

The new voting system is expected to be used for the country's next general election in 2019.

The IEC, along with a team of experts from the system's supplier Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) of India, will demonstrate how the EVM (with the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT)) works, amid calls for the government to abandon the project.

BEL is a state-owned company of India that produces EVM internationally known as Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting machines because they record votes directly in electronic memory.

Kabelo Hulela, Public Relations Officer for Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) said the demonstration session, organised for next week will offer an opportunity for those with the know-how to disrupt, hack and compromise the secure performance of the machines to do so.

"All those with the technical capability to hack the EVM are invited to come forward," said Hulela.

Media reports indicate that the voting machines have been banned in Germany, the Netherlands and Ireland because they are prone to hacking and manipulation, and are allowed in most American states only with the back-up of a voter-verified paper trail.

However, the Delhi High Court ruled on 17 January 2012 that the voting machines manufactured by BEL were "tamper-proof".

Last year, Botswana's President Ian Khama signed the Electoral Amendment Bill of 2016, a revision of the existing Electoral Act that paves the way for the introduction of EVMs.

The government believes this technology will improve several processes including registration of voters and preparation of rolls, as well as deleting provisions for supplementary rolls.

Opposition parties remain concerned about the development and claim EVMs are open to security breaches.

In February, the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) approached the courts to interdict procurement of EVMs which it says is unconstitutional and appealed to the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADP) to intervene.

The PPADB advised BCP to address its concern with the IEC.

BCP President Dumelang Saleshando said the party will not attend the IEC's EVM demonstration, given its pending court case regarding the EVM.

EVM coordinator Gabriel Seeletso said, "As a country, we are desirous to introduce an electoral solution where voters can cast their votes at their own comfort without any delay."

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