ECN dismisses EVM concerns

..as voters blast Commission for poll challenges

 

By Confidente Reporters

THE Electoral Commission of Namibia last night dismissed as fake news, rumours circulating online that the electoral voting machines (EVMs) were malfunctioning.

ECN chief executive Theo Mujoro said the isolated cases of malfunctioning EVMs were mostly due to human errors and technical issues that were soon resolved.

He expressed satisfaction with manner in which voting went in the 121 constituencies and said the deployment of election officers went smoothly, with 97 percent of polling stations opening on time at 07h00.

“We have noted reports that a number of polling stations could not open on time due to issues with regards to EVM and pre-testing. However, these challenges were resolved and most polling stations were operational by 10h00 in the morning. A few polling stations had problems reading voter cards, but these were manually verified as a backup plan.”

He also addressed concerns that some election observers had been turned away from polling stations and said ECN issued a directive immediately to regional coordinators and the issue was soon resolved.

There were a number of hiccups reported in the course of the day though.

Long queues at some mobile polling stations were observed and ECN sent out additional mobile teams to speed up the voting process, Mujoro said.

At polling centres in the Otjiwarongo constituency, for example, voters were stuck in slow-moving queues, as at one stage only one EVM was fully functional.

Observers from the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) said the “most common problem at polling stations around Windhoek visited by IPPR observers was the voter verification devices malfunctioning. This, combined with other problems, like shortages of certain forms, is leading to a very slow voting process.”

At Okahandja Town Hall some impatient voters reportedly left the polling centre without voting “due to a broken electronic voting machine.” They said they had to wait for over four hours due to a “technical error” on one of the EVMs. The presiding officer told reporters at the scene that their presidential EVM had malfunctioned at 10h54.

Voting at Okakarara-Otjiwarongo Junction polling station ground to a near halt after ink was spilled on one of the two EVMs in use. The Namibian reported that Omatako constituency election coordinator Japhet Karamata confirmed the minor incident, which resulted in a brief pause in voting.

Voting at Omatako 109 was also briefly disrupted at 12h30 after an EVM unit for the Presidential election “was found to have been tampered with. There is a mark on independent candidate Dr Itula’s spot. It is not known which voter might have made the thick mark on that spot,” NBC reported.

NBC said ECN officials stationed at Onhunda Primary school in the Ongenga constituency left some voters inside the premises without the latter casting their votes as the officials had to leave for another station.

The state broadcaster also reported that at Farm Habis in Karibib Constituency mobile polling station officials, armed with four EVMs and accompanied by members of the Namibian Police and party agents were unable to access the farm as the owner was said to be at the coast.’

The presiding officer at Dordabis Primary School told the national broadcaster as night fell that she was not sure that they would finish by 21h00 as people kept coming in numbers.

“We had one EVM for presidential that was giving us technical issues... We tried to rectify the problem over the phone but it was giving us the same issues,” she said. A replacement had to be brought from the police station before they could proceed.

At Osona military base near Okahandja, voting was also briefly delayed due to “a broken machine”, but continued after the EVM was replaced, it was reported.

The ECN cautioned voters to be sceptical of unverified social media posts and said any grievance should be recorded at the polling stations. Mujoro said all malfunctioning machines were soon replaced and voting stations would remain open past 21h00 to enable all registered persons to vote.