EVM hacking a 'farce'

Opposition parties opposed to the use of electronic voting machines have backed out of the ECN's hacking challenge at the last minute, saying they were not provided with the machines' specifications.

07 August 2019 | Politics

Opposition parties have rejected the Electoral Commission's “hacking challenge” at the last minute, saying the ECN had not provided them with the specifications of the Indian-manufactured electronic voting machines (EVMs).

Going to court to stop the use of EVMs in this year's elections remains the last resort, they say.

The parties have also demanded to join the ECN in the room where the results are tallied before being announced. Henk Mudge of the Republican Party (RP) said the ECN was not very accommodative and was hell bent on going to the polls with the EVMs despite serious concerns raised by the parties. “We do not trust the EVMs. We are convinced that they can be manipulated and used in favour of the ruling Swapo party,” he said. Asked whether the parties would take the matter to court, Mudge said they would first explore other options. Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) secretary-general Manuel Ngaringombe said they would only approach the court if they were convinced they had an airtight case.

“We do not want to go to court and lose on technicalities,” he said.

He said the ECN did not want to allow them to use “foreign objects” such as USB memory sticks during the hacking challenge.

“They told us the intellectual rights of the machines belong to the Indian companies and we can only get the scope from them. How can we hack a machine if we do not have the scope and specifications with us? They also said we may not break the seal of the machines. The hacking challenge was a farce,” he said.

“We want access to the tally centre. For now ECN does not allow any one of the political parties but we do not know if they are going to take their good friends Swapo into the room,” Ngaringombe said.

ECN chief electoral officer Theo Mujoro said the opposition parties missed a great opportunity to prove their misgivings about the EVMs by pulling out of the hacking challenge.

“We invited nominees of registered political parties to demonstrate their claims that the EVMs could be tampered with under the technical and administrative safeguards of the ECN within the existing administrative and security protocols put in place by the Commission,” he said.

Mujoro added that it was unreasonable of political parties to expect permission to connect foreign devices, or to replace or alter any components of the EVMs, in order to hack the machines. According to him the ECN would not make available any circuit board diagrams to third parties or facilitate physical access, as demanded by some political parties.

“Allowing political parties to do that would be in violation of proprietary and intellectual property rights which the ECN must observe in terms of the contract agreement with the manufacturer,” he said.



JEMIMA BEUKES

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