Bangladesh will need to spend roughly Tk 300,000 on an electronic voting machine or EVM under a Tk 87 billion project to buy and maintain the devices ahead of the next parliamentary polls.
The Election Commission on Monday approved the project, under which as many as 200,000 EVMs will be bought. Funds will also go into maintenance, developing manpower, and training.
It took Bangladesh Tk 200,000 to buy each of the 150,000 EVMs in 2018. With those EVMs, it will be possible to hold voting in 70-80 constituencies.
The Election Commission wants more EVMs for up to 150 out of 300 seats in the next elections slated to be held by the end of 2023 or early 2024.
The extra Tk 100,000 will be needed this time because of a rise in the price of the dollar. Most of the parts of the EVMs will have to be bought from abroad.
The exchange rate for the dollar was Tk 84 five years ago. It has shot up to around Tk 110. For government purchases, the rate will be Tk 96.
Each EVM was priced at $2,400 in 2018, but now they will cost $2,487 apiece, excluding taxes, officials said.
The EVMs are assembled in Bangladesh with components imported through Bangladesh Machine Tools Factory.
Dr Mohammad Mahfuzul Islam teaches computer science at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology and is a member of the technical committee on EVMs. He said the components will include the ballot unit, control unit, monitor, fingerprint scanner, cards and batteries.
“As the dollar price has increased, the EVMs may become costlier,” he said.
Mahfuzul said the EC will be able to use the EVMs if it gets the devices by July or August next year.
He brushed aside concerns of possible vote fraud through the machines, urging the political parties to check the EVMs.
Although other political parties are divided in their opinions on using the EVMs, the EC and Awami League both favour the deployment of the devices.
In the 2018 parliamentary polls, ballots were cast through EVMs in six seats.