Election Commission mulls e-voting for GE15

However, chairman says the implementation of the system is not urgent due to its limited benefits


THE Election Commission (EC) is studying the possibility of implementing electronic voting (e-voting) to cater to an estimated 22 million voters in the next general election.

Suggestions of an online voting system came up following the recent changes to the country’s voting laws.

India, which is the world’s largest democracy, is among four countries in the world that have implemented e-voting in their elections along with Brazil, Estonia and Venezuela.

EC chairman Azhar Azizan Harun said the commission is in the middle of engaging with the Indian EC on their e-voting practices.

“We are looking at it. We have seen demonstrations and I have also engaged with the Indian EC.

“I was in Cambridge, UK, recently where I met Indian EC members. In fact, I have requested further input from them,” he told The Malaysian Reserve recently.

India introduced e-voting in the country’s elections between 1998 and 2001, in a phased manner. Electronic voting machines (EVMs) have been used in all general and state assembly elections of India since 2004.

Azhar said the system could be implemented in time for the 15th General Election (GE15), which is likely to take place in 2023, but further input is needed, particularly on costs before making any decision.

“It could happen…I mean assuming that it (GE15) is in 2023. We have enough time. However, I would also like to know the cost because we had 29,000 polling streams in GE14. If one stream requires an EVM, then we would need 29,000 EVMs…and that is based on the GE14 figures.

“You must remember that the number of voters in GE15 is expected to increase from 14 million to 22 million. So, how many more streams do I need?” Azhar questioned.

It is estimated that one e-voting machine could costs about US$3,000 (RM12,570).

“Assuming that we need less, maybe half, we need approximately 18,000 EVMs. Currently, I am engaging with the Indian authorities and hopefully, they would accept my request for some input,” Azhar said.

However, he said the implementation of the system is not urgent given that its benefits are limited.

“It is not urgent. The only advantage of EVMs is that it makes vote counting and the delivery of the final election results faster.

“Based on our experience during the last eight by-elections, the results from each polling stream came at around 7pm.

“So, there is not much difference. With the increased number of streams, there are only 300 to 500 votes per stream,” Azhar said.

In India, the paper ballot method was widely criticised due to the high number of cases of fraudulent voting. Costs were also a concern given that printed paper ballots were more expensive, requiring substantial post-voting resources to count hundreds of millions of individual ballots.