The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) will seek taking the control of the vote registration system from Nadra, after the completion of local bodies’ elections.

Earlier this month there were reports that the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) is seriously considering shelving the ECP project of maintaining computerised voters’ lists after repeated allegations by PTI of maneuvering the said lists. Nadra cannot make a single change without the formal approval of the ECP and it seems that it was quite perturbed by the PTI allegations. The news of ECP moving in might be the culmination of this.

The PTI has claimed that the ruling party started development programmes to influence the electorate which was tantamount to pre-poll rigging. PML-N came with a counter allegation claiming the PTI election managers bought votes by paying 3,000 to 5,000 rupees per vote, yet their candidate lost NA-122 polls. The debate will continue, but it has had quite an impact on the electoral institutions. Though rigging is still not provable, the ECP has no choice but to clean up its act as much as it can. Additionally ECP has said that software for voters’ registration will hopefully come in the domain of the election authority after the local bodies’ polls and then the commission itself would take the responsibility of any such error in future. Electronic voting could make everything easier, and would solve the problem of printing ballots, something that was part of the rigging controversy in 2013.

However, the District Election Commissions have apparently proposed to the PTI to bring the names and CNIC numbers of the voters who claimed their votes had been transferred without their consent. The election authorities through electronic and print media informed the public to check their votes in the voting lists displayed at registration offices of their area, or online or by SMS Service. If their votes were registered at a wrong place, they could get it corrected by providing relevant documents and evidence to Nadra through their respective election offices. This option is quite a good service being provided already, and puts a question mark on all of PTI’s allegations.

Currently the commission sends the forms for voters’ registration to Nadra, which after verifying details registers his/her vote and sends back the information to the election authorities. The ECP has said that the commission will hire data entry operators as soon as it gets the confirmation of the transfer of voters’ registration software to it and 2018 general elections will be held on flawless voters’ lists.

The ECP must be careful that there are no data entry errors under any new electronic voting regime. The inquiry reports of the investigation into the 2013 elections were a cornucopia of such errors and the ECP was able to hide behind them and deny rigging. But that there were errors, is something that still needs to be addressed.