Electronic voting machines (EVMs) for the next general elections will cost around Rs25 billion if polls are held throughout the country in a single day, an official said on Sunday.
He added that the figure did not include technology, security, environmental protection, training of presiding officers, data storage, printing, remunerations, transportation and other expenses.
“The cost can reduce if the elections are held on different days as the number of machines will decrease in that case,” the official told The Express Tribune requesting anonymity.
“EVMs will cost around Rs25 billion but the cost can go up if more polling booths are set up than the previous polls,” he added.
“The cost will decrease if the government decides to use the same machines on different days in different parts of the country.”
Referring to the 2018 general elections, he recalled that there were roughly 85,000 polling stations and 243,000 polling booths set up across the country.
“The actual cost will depend on the number of polling booths and if the elections are held on the same or on different dates across the country,” he elaborated.
He added that the cost appeared to be too much but considering it would be spent just once, it was nominal considering the benefits.
The official pointed out that general elections in India were held on different days and results were announced on a given date after the vote counting process was completed.
Similarly, he said, the Pakistani government could reduce the cost of EVMs by holding elections on different dates in different areas and announce the results after compiling results from all the constituencies.
Federal Information and Broadcasting Minister Fawad Chaudhry said the cost could not be estimated at this stage and it should not come from the government's side as it would be determined during the bidding process.
Though Chaudhry refrained from confirming the Rs25 billion figure for EVMs’ manufacturing, he said the cost would be somewhat similar to the total cost incurred on the 2018 elections, which according to media reports was around Rs21 billion.
“The cost will reduce when the machines are commercially produced in bulk,” Fawad added.
“It will be a one-time cost and will significantly reduce the cost of elections in the future.”
To the question, Fawad said that holding elections on different days should be discussed as it could help in reducing the cost of EVMs.
For the past few months, Prime Minister Imran Khan has stressed the need for electoral reforms.
He pushed for the use of EVMs and President Dr Arif Alvi promulgated an ordinance on May 8, aimed at to paving the way for the use of EVMs and granting overseas Pakistanis their right to vote in future elections.
The government has made its intentions clear that it would make all efforts to hold the 2023 elections through EVMs and invited the opposition parties for discussion.
However, the opposition has so far given a cold shoulder to the proposal and raised several objections on the move to give voting rights to the overseas Pakistanis through the promulgation of an ordinance.
Read more: ECP constitutes committee on EVMs
To address their reservations over the use of EVMs, the government recently presented the prototype of the machine at the Parliament House for the inspection of lawmakers.
The EVM is being jointly developed by COMSATS University Islamabad and the National Institute of Electronics.
The government officials said there were five proposed EVM models -- three imported ones and the remaining two being manufactured in the country.
They added that the Election Commission of Pakistan would finalise the model of the machine.