March 22, 2019

Election Violence: Is electronic voting the answer or another fantasy? – Bakare Majeed

Election Violence: Is electronic voting the answer or another fantasy? – Bakare Majeed

The type of violence and irregularity that marred the 2019 general election is giving vigour to calls for the introduction of electronic voting to be put in place for subsequent elections instead of the current ballot system.

With the images of the burning of the ballot paper, attacks on INEC officials, burning of INEC offices, killings and the bizarre snatching of ballot boxes, definitely a solution must be found, and many are already advocating a switch to the digital world.

Some commentators even described the ballot paper system of voting as a new height of humiliation, especially with the slow pace involved in the announcement of results at collation centres.

Some are pretty persuasive, while other arguments are more of the fantasy world.

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At a polling unit in Garki, Abuja, during the Presidential election, a young man was telling his audience that had President Muhammadu Buhari signed the electoral act, there would be no need to come outside to queue under the sun to vote.

He was of the view that the electorates would just vote in their various houses online, just as it is done in saner climes.

But contrary to the misinformation by the young man, no part of the electoral act bill rejected by the President contained electronic voting; what it had prominently was the use of card reader for verification, which was adopted by the National Assembly.

The main proponents of the electronic voting have argued that it will eradicate violence such as ballot snatching and burning of ballot boxes, as well as remove manipulation and save logistic cost associated with printing and transporting of ballot papers.

But one is quick to ask: does the use of electronic voting solve the issues we are dealing with?

The answer proves to be an emphatic no. Electronic devices are not immune to fire, the same way those papers are not.

The machines are not going to be immune to smashing or any other form of destruction. So how does electronic voting resolves ballot box snatching if it also has its shortcomings?

Maybe we would then have ‘machine snatching.’

On the argument of eradicating manipulation during elections, well, the Netherland and Germany both adopted and abandoned the electronic voting because of opacity.

So how can citizens easily verify the process just as technology experts have argued that it could leave room for manipulation and other compromises?

Contrary to the opinion that most nations are using electronic means for their voting, research has shown that very few nations, in fact, less than 20 countries in the world have embraced e-voting.

Although the Kaduna State Independent National Electoral Commission used e-voting for its local government elections, the process also led to a rare outcome that the opposition won some local governments and it was still immersed in controversy and mistrust.

Then you can imagine what will happen at the national level if we are to solely depend on
electronic voting for all our elections.

While the adaptation of technology in our elections, such as the card readers have helped tremendously, further adaptation should be measured on a specific problem it is going to cure, and cost-benefit analysis should be done to ensure that more problems will not arise while trying to fix one.

There is the aspect of national security concerns as elections are the cornerstone of any democratic nation but do we have the capacity to produce the machines here or we are going to import them?

Research and development of such technology should be encouraged and probably, a trial period should commence during the forthcoming local government elections.

One thing is certain though; e-voting is still for the future, but the process of voting is not the cause of the violence we witness during elections in Nigeria.

So adopting technology will not resolve the ‘we die here attitude of the politicians and their followers who will do anything and everything to get into power.

The perks of office make the war-like approach to become a wise investment, and like every gambler, as long as N100 can fetch you millions, more people will continue to patronize bet shops.

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