Every time elections draw closer, rumours go rife questioning the reliability of the voting machinery. Anonymous accounts on social media cite claims of tampering of electronic voting machines in the region and abroad. 

The election commission officials said that with stringent measures in place such manipulations are impossible. 

The Chief Election Commissioner Chogyal Dago Rigdzin said that the source of such claims that an electronic voting machine (EVM) can be tampered emerged since 2008 from abroad.

Individuals claimed tampering of electronic voting machines (EVM) by inserting a chip or through the use of wifi. 

However, the kind of EVM the election commission uses are different from those that can be supposedly tampered with. 

“As an election management body and for free and fair elections we can’t take the news of such claims like ordinary news consumers,” Chogyal Dago Rigdzin said. “We have to take these claims seriously and investigate and ensure that such a thing is impossible.” 

“The machine has no networking features and does not work on wifi so there is no way of tampering through such means,” he said. “It’s a stand alone machine.” 

He said that the key is the security of EVMs and postal ballots and secrecy of the votes. 

The machines are sealed or opened in the presence of representatives of the candidates, observers, election officials and security personnel, he said which is why unless all these individuals collude and agree, there are enough measures to prevent tampering of the machines.

For the postal ballot, the origin of doubt was the lack of witness, the chief election commissioner said.  

“There’ll be suspicion but what we can do is make the system as transparent as possible,” he said. “We’ve been transparent as it is humanly possible.”

The election commission has signed a pact with the Bhutan Post Corporation Ltd that handles and delivers the postal ballots. To counter such suspicions, the commission has deployed independent observers at the postal ballot facilitation booths. The postal ballots will be delivered as per the standard operating procedures in place so that no matter who the post officials are they will adhere to the strict procedure to maintain safety of the ballots.

The officials from the organisations involved in the conduct of the elections were also trained on the guidelines, rules and regulations and the procedures. 

The chief election commissioner said that there are end-to-end minimum mechanisms to ensure security and secrecy of the votes. 

“Otherwise, people will land up voting for different parties and not to the one of their choice,” he said. “The system has to earn the trust of the people and the efforts to maintain them have to be eternal.”

Commissioner Deki Pema said that the conventional postal ballots have the same security and secrecy features. “There is no way anyone could know that a particular person has voted for a certain party,” she said. The election-duty officials open the two envelopes of the postal ballot on different days in presence of the stakeholders. 

She said that the envelopes and ballot papers are scrutinised to see if they are intact. 

Tshering Palden