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ISLAMABAD: The poll body has refused to hold the local government elections in Punjab through electronic voting machines (EVMs) and internet voting, commonly known as i-voting for overseas Pakistanis, deciding to ask the provincial caretaker government to amend the related electoral rules —to allow the polls on the manual voting method.

In a meeting on Monday, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) decided to reach out to the Punjab caretaker government for amending Section 47(1) of the Punjab Local Government Act 2022—to allow holding the LG elections in the province on manual voting procedure instead of EVMs and i-voting.

The ECP met to review arrangements over holding LG polls in Punjab.

ECP to meet on July 10 to discuss LG polls in Punjab, Islamabad

Section 47(1) of Punjab Local Government Act 2022 provides that election of local governments shall be held on party basis through secret ballot on the basis of adult franchise, through EVMs and i-voting, in the prescribed manner. The ECP was of the view that the Punjab government amended the Punjab Local Government (Election) Rules 2022 to hold the voting in LG elections through manual voting, but Section 47(1) of Punjab Local Government Act 2022 was yet to be amended.

The amended Section 35(4) of the Punjab Local Government (Election) Rules 2022 provides, in case of non-availability of EVMs, the following procedure shall continue to be observed: (a) the ballot paper shall be stamped on its back with the official mark and signed by the presiding officer: (b) the presiding officer shall record on the counterfoil of the ballot paper the number of the voter on the electoral roll, the number of the national identity card of the voter, stamp it with the official mark, sign it and obtain on the thumb impression of the voter; and (c) the polling officer shall obtain the thumb impression of the voter on the space provided on the electoral roll for the purpose against the photograph of the voter.

The ECP decided to ask the provincial government to ensure that relevant provisions of Punjab Local Government Act 2022 were amended in conformity with those of Elections Act 2017.

The Section 103 of Elections Act 2017 provides that the commission may conduct pilot projects for utilisation of EVMs and biometric verification system in by-elections in addition to the existing manual procedures for voter verification, casting and counting of votes to assess the technical efficacy, secrecy, security and financial feasibility of the EVMs and biometric verification system and shall share the results with the government, which shall, within 15 days from the commencement of a session of a house after the receipt of the report, lay the same before Parliament.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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