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Editorial: Ditch the paper

The Annapurna Express

The Annapurna Express

Editorial: Ditch the paper

There is still room to employ electronic voting in provincial and federal elections

The tortoise-paced vote-counting following the May 13 local elections is a farce. With better preparation, the Election Commission could easily have arranged for more counting stations and personnel to tally votes in big cities like Kathmandu and Bharatpur. Surely the commission officials understand that prompt results are among the salient features of free and fair elections. The longer the results take, the greater the suspicions of foul play. And why keep counting votes for up to a month when you could literally do it in minutes? 

To its credit, the Election Commission has repeatedly tried to phase-in electronic voting. During the 2008 Constituent Assembly election, the commission had piloted electronic voting in some booths of Kathmandu constituency number 1. Both local and international poll observers had deemed the pilot a success and encouraged wider adoption of electronic voting. Yet Nepal to this day continues to exclusively rely on paper. The major political parties are apparently unconvinced that the machines cannot be tampered with. But experiences from around the world suggest paper voting is more amenable to tampering and fraud—by a magnitude—compared to electronic voting. If India, with its wretched history of electoral violence and rigging, now has no qualms about embracing technology to make its voting system quick and transparent, there is no reason Nepal should not adopt it too. 

Twenty or more days to count less than 200,000 votes (in Kathmandu, for instance) is way too much. The voters are being made to continuously check updates to see how their candidate of choice is faring—as if they have nothing better to do. Being so inconvenienced, they might be discouraged from voting next time. Perhaps it is too late to adopt a full-fledged electronic voting for upcoming provincial and federal elections. But as the commission has clarified, there is still room to employ electronic voting in these elections, at least in places with relatively high voter education. We could not do it soon enough. Increasingly adept at using apps and appliances, Nepalis, with a bit of education, are more than capable of exercising their franchise electronically.