The Supreme Court’s insistence on enabling overseas Pakistanis to vote in the May 11 general elections has placed the relevant authorities in a fix. Severely castigated by the court for their inability to devise a workable mechanism, the authorities, including the Election Commission of Pakistan, have deliberated several options but found them all to be flawed. Talking to The Express Tribune, sources in the ECP and the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) said that none of the proposed mechanisms had been tested and even a minor error could sabotage the entire electoral exercise. … In their report submitted before the SC, NADRA’s IT experts said exercising the internet option would compromise electoral rolls severely due to risks, such as hacking, which could not be mitigated within the short time given for polls. In addition to this, they maintained internet voting could not reliably confirm voters’ identities and would also compromise their privacy. “Such confirmation can only be ensured through biometric verification… in its absence the possibility of casting votes against someone else’s identity cannot be ruled out,” the experts added.
The possibility of using voters’ voice signatures for recognition has also been discussed, according to sources. But, this option, too, cannot be implemented on such a short notice given that there is no database tagging citizens’ voice signature with their National Identity Cards.
NADRA itself, meanwhile, proposed setting up polling stations at Pakistani missions abroad. Registered voters living overseas would be able vote at mission nearest to their location on polling day. The voters would have to come in person to the mission, where a presiding officer would capture their thumb impression using a digitiser to confirm their identity and link it to the voter’s native constituency. After the voter confirms his/her vote, the data would be transferred to the ECP database.
This mechanism too, however, is not without its flaws. A major impediment is the limited space available at the missions. In case of a large turnout at a particular mission, the voting process might not conclude on time. Another hurdle, for voters, would be getting to the mission itself – even the nearest one might lie beyond certain voters’ reach.