Online fingerprint voting system to end controversy over polls

Online fingerprint voting system to end controversy over polls

Md Joynal Abdin

The Financial Express on August 28, 2011

Since the independence of Bangladesh in 1971 we have experienced almost every system of governance, socialism, capitalism, presidential democracy, parliamentary democracy, martial law and last of all non-military martial law. All the above systems started with hope and positive commitments and were welcomed by all. But, unfortunately, all failed to fulfill commitments and somehow unexpectedly got involved in perpetuating self rule, providing undue advantages to the party adherents/ family members or misusing state power. The military played an important role during almost every change, but failed to keep away from all controversies at the end.

Bangladesh held nine parliamentary elections and hardly any one of them was without controversy. The party having failed to get peoples mandate always blamed the administration for their failure. This is because there is scope for manipulation in our polling system.

Currently, the country’s Election Commission (EC) is thinking of using digital voting machines in the upcoming parliamentary election. They are trying to convince political parties to accept digital voting system. As per newspaper reports some political parties are looking into the matter differently, they think there is a scope for manipulation in this system.

If the machines hold a press button as a means of counting votes then the chance is there to manipulate it. On the other hand, if the system is just providing fingerprint to the adjacent scanner of each party symbol without any repetition facility then the debate is over.

To avoid any criticism the EC can use fingerprint vote counting machines in the upcoming parliamentary elections. This polling system can be made transparent by using online polling system throughout the country.

For example, all votes counting machine can be directly linked (networked) with the central server of EC. When a person touches the scanner besides his or her favoured party symbol, his vote will be registered once. No matter how many times he/she presses his/her finger, only one vote will be counted against his/her fingerprint. This vote will hit the central server and a vote will be counted in favour of his/her chosen candidate. The results of this server can be displayed into various points/party offices/ election monitoring agency offices through an online monitor.

Criticism of this idea may be that whether we have enough resources to connect all polling centres with a single online network.

The answer is yes, government can use all mobile companies infrastructure for a single day to connect the polling centre with online server. The length and breadth of Bangladesh is covered by mobile network. It is possible to connect any polling centre with the online server.

Fingerprint or online counting system cannot be manipulated by any third party. If any centre gets disconnected with the central server then the vote taking will be stopped until the connection is restored. Remote rural areas out of the reach of the national grid of electricity can use generators for a day to operate the polling system uninterruptedly.

A question may arise, will it be wise to disconnect the entire mobile network of Bangladesh at one time. In such case elections can be held division wise and the process may take several days.

The Election Commission can think of using fingerprint voting machines in upcoming parliamentary elections to avoid any controversy. I think this is the most transparent system of polling without any scope for manipulation. Technical expert group may be formed to examine its viability as early as possible so that all possible difficulties/barriers can be removed before the next general elections.

In such a system the government and the administration can show their sincerity and honesty. I think none of the political party seeking a transparent election will oppose the idea. Now it’s the EC, and the government’s turn to examine the idea positively and implement online fingerprint voting system for the sake of free and fair elections. m tD�t.pr �erm targets are supposed to be achieved by the year 2013 like, raising economic growth rate to 8%, reducing poverty rate to 25%, enhancing electricity supply to 7,000 MW. The longterm targets are supposed to be achieved by the year 2017 like boosting economic growth rate to 10%, reducing poverty rate to 15%, enhancing electricity supply to 20,000 MW. The government should evaluate the current position in achieving these. Otherwise lots of disheartening reports are waiting for them!

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Md. Joynal Abdin

Development Researcher, Columnist and Author

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