INEC to Test Run State-wide Electronic Result Transmission in Anambra

  •  To monitor Nov 18 polling from central server

Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

The Independent National Electoral Commission would do a test run of its new electronic result transmission technology at the Anambra State governorship election on November 18 before applying it during the 2019 general election, THISDAY has learnt. The automated result transmission system is a major innovation that INEC plans to introduce to the country’s voting process to forestall rigging. The commission intends to try the new technology in Anambra State to see if it works properly and identify areas of possible modification ahead of the 2019 general poll.

It was gathered that the new technology would ensure that the results of the governorship election are transmitted simultaneously to a central server from the polling units as voting is taking place. Though, not yet officially enacted as part of the electoral process, the e-transmission process is said to be initiated by INEC as a buffer and backup to enable it track collation of results at various centres in order to check malpractices, like ballot box snatching, falsification of figures, and over voting.

Sources in the commission said the new system was successfully deployed penultimate Saturday in Sokoto State during a by-election held in Kware/Wamakko Federal Constituency. But Anambra State would be its first application in a state-wide election.

The Anambra State governorship election is expected to be a hot contest by 37 political parties and their candidates, representing the highest number of parties in one election in the history of the country.
Although the National Assembly recently passed a bill seeking to give the electoral umpire powers to introduce new technologies it deems fit to enhance the electoral conduct, certain aspects of the technological deployment, especially the use of electronic voting and relaying of election results via electronic means, are still subject to constitutional amendment.

THISDAY learnt from sources in INEC that it had decided to apply electronic transmission of results, first, on a pilot basis, hence the move to experiment it at the Anambra poll. A top INEC official who confirmed the decision yesterday, on condition of anonymity, said the commission will carry out manual collation of results in addition to the electronic collation.

The source said in response to enquiries, “Yes, we will deploy it. We are piloting the scheme. And we always use the electronic recording of results to compare with the manual collation. It helps us to serve as an audit mechanism and also to test-run the technology until when the constitution is amended to allow for such use of electronic transmission of result from our elections.” According to the official, the essence of deploying e-transmission is to authenticate election results. He said the results would be transmitted electronically from one collation level to the next; just the same way the manually collated results are taken from one collation centre to the next level of collation.

The Senate had voted in support of an amendment bill to legalise the use of smart card readers for the authentication of accredited voters during an election and pave the way for the application of electronic voting in future elections. Apart from empowering the presiding officer at a polling unit to use the smart card reader to authenticate voters, the bill also approves the use of any other technological device that may be prescribed by INEC “from time to time for the accreditation of voters to verify, confirm or authenticate the genuineness or otherwise of voters’ card”.

The bill specifically stipulates that votes and recorded results must be electronically transmitted directly from polling units in an encrypted and secured form.

INEC has consistently decried the delay in the amendment of the constitution as it affects the conduct of elections. The commission says the delay is affecting its plans to roll out in full scale new technologies that would enhance its operations and the quality of elections in the country.

The United Progressive Party had last week alerted the public to what it described as a worrisome story making the rounds that the Anambra governorship election will not be different from other manipulated and discredited elections. UPP asked INEC to deploy electronic devices that would ensure that results of the governorship election are transmitted directly to the central server in Awka, the state capital. The party said the demand became necessary following threats by some politicians to undermine the outcome of the poll.

In a statement on Thursday by its national chairman, Chief Chekwas Okorie, UPP said, “It will be very helpful and encourage unprecedented voter turnout in Anambra governorship election if INEC can reassure the electorate of its capacity to forestall any rigging strategy adopted by the criminal elements.”

Meanwhile, the spokesman of the INEC chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, Rotimi Oyekanmi, has assured that the commission would do all in its power to ensure that the Anambra governorship election is conducted in the most transparent and fair manner.

Regarding the fears expressed last week by some political parties and their candidates over alleged plots to unleash violence during the election in a bid to rig it, Oyekanmi said INEC was working with the security agencies to thwart any plan by criminal elements to disrupt the election.

Oyekanmi had earlier expressed concern about what he called apparent foot-dragging and controversy associated with the introduction of electronic voting, saying this may result in its rejection in the constitution amendment process.

He said, “One of the things we are asking for is the issue of technology, to give us the leverage to use any technology that will enhance the election. Also there is this issue of election violence; we need a definite law to help check violent eruptions during elections, at least, to make those who commit crime to pay for it so that it would serve as a deterrent to those who may want to engage in this sort of acts.”