ECES announces the launch of its latest publication. “Challenges and opportunities for the implementation of e-voting in Nigeria: lessons from international experiences”.
This publication has been drafted as a follow up to the EMB conference on “Opportunities and Challenges in the use of technology in elections - Experiences from West and Southern Africa”, which was jointly organised by the ECONEC Network of Electoral Commissions (ECONEC), Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC Nigeria) and ECES, from 9 - 11 April 2018 in Abuja.
This policy paper aims to contribute to the ongoing discourse on deepening the deployment of ICT in elections through the potential implementation of e-voting, e-balloting or electronic transmission of results ahead of Nigeria’s General Elections in 2023 and beyond. This paper which draws from international experiences aims to highlight the conditions for success as well as identify potential challenges that can impact the implementation of an electronic voting system.
Being a qualitative study seeking to present and analyse policy options, the paper adopted a mix of desk review, interviews with key stakeholders and case studies in highlighting salient issues that are prevalent in the implementation of e-voting. The experiences of four countries with similar demographic attributes and electoral context namely, Namibia, Brazil, India and Indonesia were reviewed and lessons drawn for the Nigerian experience.
Based on the comparative approaches to voting by electronic means and the state of play within INEC, the study makes 28 recommendations among which are:
- There is need to clarify the practical modus operandi regarding the ballot counting phase, and sensitise the public on whether the collation process will include manual counting of the paper-trails before the transmission of the electronic result or not, also depending on the provisions of the new Law, once adopted. Party agents and the public actively attend this phase and should be adequately informed and educated on the process, to mitigate the risks of communication gaps.
- The Continuous engagement of state institutions that can provide support for the implementation of e-voting such as the National Communications Commission, National Information Technology Development Agency, Nigerian Communications Satellite (NigComSat) etc, should be sustained as they possess key infrastructures that can further enhance implementation of such a system.
- There is need for INEC to present an assessment on its level of preparedness to conduct e-voting as well as an analysis of the budget implications of EVMs being considered and the sources of funding.
- Consistent effort should be invested in ensuring the political parties and their representatives, as well as the general public are familiar with the methodology and processes of the e-voting to engender understanding and bolster confidence. INEC may wish to consider the periodic conduct of the Public Service audit/Trust along the line of the Brazilian model as one of the security strategies for the e-voting. Consequently, a robust inspection system, that will involve more stakeholders including representatives of political parties, CSOs and other stakeholders should be put in place at all stages of the e-voting process, “opening the books”, allowing for external stakeholders to look at the software deployed, and test the systems ahead of elections.
- To reduce the cost of election in the long run and justify the huge initial investment, the technology of the e-voting should be re-usable, even if needed to be adjusted or reconfigured, for at least four electoral cycles;
- Effort should be made to ensure that e-voting laws are devoid of ambiguity and comprehensive enough to avoid lingering litigations after passage and election including the mandatory pre-audit of the technology used for the e-operations (as it was the case in Catalunya) and post-audit of the results (risk limiting audits (RLA);
- To facilitate a learning process in the implementation of the e-voting, INEC should adopt a phased implementation of the e-voting starting with supplementary elections before full deployment in the 2023 general elections, provided the legal framework is adopted.
- Consistent with international best practices, a longer preparatory period for the full deployment of the e-voting should be respected. In most cases, the timeline for proper implementation of technologies including e-voting is likely to be measured in years rather than months, even for pilots.
- Broader and continuous stakeholder engagements involving the National Assembly, political parties, CSOs, media, marginalised groups, security agencies, and other electoral stakeholders to strengthen commitment and acceptance of e-voting, neutralising misconceptions and resistance. This engagement should be initiated at the earliest stages, and include efforts of transparency on the technological aspects as well as on the non-technical ones.
- Design and implementation of an intensive voter education on the implementation of e-voting with the following essential elements:
- Simplification of voting procedures to facilitate public understanding of the voting procedures;
- To allay and dispel the fear of intimidation that may arise through compromise of secret ballot;
- Inclusivity of the e-voting process for the participation of persons living with disabilities.
As INEC considers the various options towards the implementation of an electronic balloting solution amidst the ongoing review of the electoral legal framework that should also clear the way for its implementation, it is important to bear in mind that technology even at its best, does not provide a full proof end-to-end solution to electoral challenges as there are other aspects including the human interface with technology that needs to be carefully handled. Technological driven electoral systems must be able to manage and create the necessary synergy between the People, Process and Technology (PPT).
Follow the link below to read the full publication