How e-voting machine works in Kaduna LG poll
September 19, 2021
After much anticipation, the Kaduna State Local Government election eventually held in 19 out of 23 local government areas on Saturday, September 4, though not without some of the usual controversies that surround elections in Nigeria.
TA day before the poll, the Kaduna State Independent Electoral Commission, chaired by Dr Saratu Dikko-Audu, announced the suspension of the poll in four local governments, Birnin Gwari, Chikun, Kajuru and Zango-Kataf, citing security concerns.
The September 4 election was the second council election since the coming of the All Progressives Congress government to Kaduna State in 2015. The exercise recorded low voter turnout, a challenge that has become synonymous with LG elections in the country.
However, the deployment of the electronic voting system by the state, under the leadership of Governor Nasir El-Rufai, got the attention of many across the country, especially because the National Assembly and INEC are still stuck in some brickbat over the issue. While Independent National Eelectoral Commission said it was willing to use e-voting for future general elections, the lawmakers seem to maintain a cold attitude towards the option.
Speaking on the deployment of the e-voting option, Dikko-Audu attributed the initiative to the governor. She said, “We pioneered e-voting during our last local government election in 2018 and that happened because the governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, being a progressive and courageous person, decided when we came on board to task us with the responsibility of developing technology for our local government elections.
“Initially, we thought all he meant was using the smart card reader because it had been used successfully in the 2015 election. But he said no, that he wanted us to go a whole hog and have residents vote on a machine. So, we went out to develop the Electronic Voting Machine which we eventually presented in 2018.”
This informed the amendment to relevant laws in the state.
How the EVM works
As our correspondent observed, after manual accreditation by officials of the state electoral commission, a voter swipes their permanent voter card on a panel on the machine and the machine automatically displays the political parties participating in the election. Then, the voter punches the icon of the political party they want to vote for and press OK to validate it.
The machine then prints the voting slip. The same process is repeated for the councillorship election.
In one of the polling units visited by our correspondent, the e-voting system caught the interest of a voter, Abubakar Sadique, who described the process as commendable. At his polling unit at Barnawa Market in Kaduna South Local Government Area of the state, Sadique noted that the system wasted no time unlike the manual voting system.
He said, “The electoral process is perfect. I’m impressed. I can see changes in the voting process. No time wasting, no fraud.”
The governor shared similar views shortly after casting his vote at Polling Unit 01 Ungwan Sarki Kaduna, Kaduna North Local Government Area. He expressed confidence in the process, noting that the outcome should be acceptable to all the parties in the election as “it is nearly impossible to rig it.”
He averred that the electronic voting machine used was an improvement on the one used in the 2018 council poll where there were incidences of multiple voting.
He said, “The improved voting machine we now have makes it nearly impossible to do multiple voting, which happened a lot in the 2018 election; you activate the voting machine with your card. Once you come and you are accredited, you go to the voting machine and place your voter card, it opens the machine for you and you vote. The whole process takes less than fifteen seconds. It is very fast, very efficient and you will see your ballot paper being printed and the ballot papers can be counted.
“The machine also transmits the result at the end of the voting to a server as well as a backup. You also have printed copies for all the parties and security agents. So, it is very difficult to alter anything.
“We don’t believe in cheating, we don’t believe in rigging elections but also we don’t believe that other people should cheat us. And that is why we encouraged SIECOM to come up with a very improved system and I am impressed with the whole thing.
Elections in Nigeria have always been marred by irregularities, but according to El-Rufai, technology is key in minimising cheating in elections. “Unless we have credible elections we can never have good leaders that are accountable. That is why we are committed, even if it means we are going to lose in some areas. This is democracy, it is a gradual process,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties, in the state pointed out some irregularities in the exercise. Its secretary-general, Umar Farouk-Ibrahim, said the election was marred by fraud and was characterised by apparent malfunctioning and outright failure of the electronic voting machine to function at the polling units.
He said the compilation and computation of the results presented by their party agents showed some irregularities in the number of votes and that the results from the affected wards and local governments ought not to be announced.
He added, “As a result of the failure of the electronic voting machine, election in some local government areas and their wards can never be said to be conclusively conducted.
“We also observed the apparent display of cash at the voting units, this also characterised the behaviour of political parties, particularly the party in power and unfortunately security personnel turned a blind eye and deaf ears to our calls.
“While we appreciate the efforts of the commissioner of police and other senior security officers, their men at the polling units and collection centres were compromised and they took sides in the conduct of their duties.”
But the chairman of the main opposition party in the state, Peoples Democratic Party, Felix Hyat, commended the governor for bequeathing the state with a modernised voting system through e-voting.
Hyat, a former Aviation Minister, said, “The party notes that Governor Nasir El-Rufai has consistently promised the people of Kaduna State free and fair local government council election through a modernised system of voting, hence his heavy investment in the procurement of the electronic voting machines. On this, we have no reason to doubt the sincerity of the governor,” he added.
In his own submission, the Speaker of the Kaduna State House of Assembly, Mr Yusuf Zailani, commended the governor for ensuring that e-voting was introduced into the electoral process in the state..
He said, “This is one of the best and I appreciate the governor because it took a long time to convince me of the adoption of electronic voting. Earlier, I was against the e-voting process but we are impressed. This is the best ever and the entire process was excellent.”
Although the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union commended the peaceful conduct of the poll, it noted that reports from its members indicated that the poll was allegedly manipulated.
SOKAPU’s spokesperson, Luka Binniyat, in an interview with our correspondent on the outcome of the council poll, said as a non-political and non-partisan socio-cultural group of the 67 ethnic nationalities of Southern Kaduna, the union was interested in the process and technicalities that produce elective leadership, noting the body was in complete support of the e-voting option adopted by the state government.
Binniyat, a critic of the El-Rufai administration, said “SOKAPU is in complete support of e-voting, most especially in electronic transmission of election results. It is the right thing to do at this age and in a place like Nigeria where politicians and their political parties have made winning elections a do-or-die affair.
“The last local government Council election in Kaduna State would have been a model for other states to emulate, only that it turned out to be a charade in many areas, as reports that reached us suggested.
“The Electronic Voting Machines should have brought out a near perfect election were it not for the desperate manipulation by some vested interests. One of the fine features of the machine is that it electronically sorts out the votes according to party, count and add them up. It then prints out the results which are then manually entered into result sheets and given to every party agent. No doubt, this is an improvement.
“However, in hundreds of polling units and voting points, the machines were faulty and there were few technical staff members who could carry out immediate repairs. Thus, some voters were disenfranchised, even though the turn out for voting was very poor.”
He alleged that even though the governor promised a free and fair election, its members complained of the use of state force to manipulate final result sheets, especially in the chairmanship results.
“That is probably why you would see a local government emerging with 90 per cent of the councillors, just to see the chairmanship results showing something else. This may cause an anomaly, where for the first time, the opposing PDP in the state may produce more councillors in the councils than the ruling All Progressives Congress.
“The final result sheets were manually handled, thus giving room for the same way of vote theft.”
Binniyat urged aggrieved persons and parties to seek legal redress, adding that party agents had the printed results from the machine which should make it easy for the courts to establish the truth. By and large, it was relatively free of violence in most areas,” he added.
Meanwhile, as commendable as the e-voting option was, the election was not without hiccups. The chairman of the PDP pointed out that there was a high rate of violence which manifested in the molestation of party agents and party stalwarts in which “they were beaten, molested and even driven away from their duty post during the exercise.”
Hyat said it was more worrisome that these took place in the presence of security agents who chose to look the other way. “Of particular note was the incident of this nature that took place in Sanga Local Government where soldiers were deployed by some top functionaries of government, unlawfully against public interest to sabotage the electoral process.”
According to the SIECOM’s boss, during the election, over 41 Electronic Voting Machines were carted away by suspected political thugs.
The various stakeholders pointed out that “e-voting is not immune to violence and other forms of manipulation, but if improved upon, it could help to sanitise the process and restore voters confidence in the exercise.”
A political scientist, Dr Phillips Akhaine, however pointed out that e-voting has comparative advantages over manual voting, which Nigeria uses till date. He said the advancement in technology has made e-voting more convenient and that this can be deployed when people want to choose their leaders.
From stuffing of ballot boxes to theft of the boxes and wastage of ballot papers because of the usual low turnout of voters, the manual voting system has been fraught with all kinds of manipulations.
Akhaine added, “The system also encourages snatching of boxes and other electoral malpractices. However, with e-voting, voting is electronically conducted via the electronic machines. It saves time and results are also transmitted to a central poll. There is no room for manually transmitted results.
“But with the recent council elections in Kaduna State, the use of e-voting was put under question. The time it took the electoral body to announce the outcome of the results put a question mark on the credibility of the use of e-voting machines into serious question. It took so many days for the outcome of the results to be known. Some parties complain of tampering with the electoral machines before the commencement of voting exercise in some areas.”
Akhaine however advised that such challenges could be addressed in subsequent elections.
He stated, “In future elections, if e-voting must be adopted, all the machines to be used must be verifiable, and we must ensure that they are shown to the voters and that they are not pre-fixed for manipulation, before the commencement of voting. This will clear the doubts of voters.”
A 70-year-old veteran journalist, Tajudeen Ajibade, was however of the view that there was no need to rush into e-voting because of the inherent challenges. He advised that there should be continuous voter education.
According to him, e-voting will face many challenges, such as communication network.
He added, “The recent local government election in Kaduna State will remain a model other states can copy. The governor has vowed that whoever wins at the polls will be given the mandate. Democracy is at work in Kaduna state and the government of Mallam Nasiru Ahmed El -Rufai deserves commendation.
“Those who are making noise have refused to pass their anger to the right place, if they are genuine. There are many flaws in any new innovation, but with time and continuous political education , we may overcome them. Electronic voting will face many problems, such as communication network which are yet to be effective across the country. We should not rush the idea but take time to study the e-voting system.”
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