What’s Happening: Is INEC Ready for Tech-Driven Elections in 2023?

In February, President Muhammadu Buhari signed the much-anticipated electoral law amendment into law. For some, it paints a picture of the government’s commitment to maintaining transparent and credible elections. Others, however, seem skeptical.

Some parts of the amendments, such as the early release of election funds to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), early party primaries and the filing of candidate lists, were widely welcomed. On the other hand, electronic voting/transmission of results has raised concerns among Nigerians.

Sections 47 and 50(2) of the Elections Act 2022 provide legal support for the use of smart card readers, electronic authentication of voters and any other authentication technology deployed by INEC. It also provides legal support for the electronic transmission of results, as INEC now has the power to decide how results are transmitted.

INEC has established a Results Review Portal (IReV) in 2020 so that the public can access the election results of voting units upon completion.In addition to the new technical powers, section 62(2) authorized The Commission maintains a central electronic electoral register for electronic collation.

The changes have since sparked debate over INEC’s ability to effectively change the game, especially as the country prepares for a general election in 2023.

These concerns may come from memories of something 2015 Hacking of INEC website During the certification period for the Nigerian Presidential and National Assembly elections.

However, in a position paper to be released in 2021, the committee argued that the concerns raised were characterized by deep-seated partisanship, incomplete information, unfounded fears, unfounded conspiracy theories and deep misunderstandings .

The position paper was released to quell the heated negotiations that have erupted since, as the committee insists it has developed “appropriate structures and processes to successfully transmit election results electronically”.

But a statement from the 2022 INEC appeared to cement concerns about what election referees have labeled “baseless fears”.

Repeated Attacks on INEC Systems

INEC Chairman Mahmood Yakubu

Speaking at a stakeholder meeting on the management of election results on Sept. 9, INEC Chairman Mahmood Yakubu said the commission’s IReV portal had been targeted by global hackers. He acknowledged that the committee had documented several attempts to hack the web security systems of the results-viewing portal.

“Another technical issue we had was repeated attempts to breach our portal cybersecurity system,” the INEC chairman said.

“Our engineers reported that in Ekiti and Ocean Governor elections, some of them from as far away as Asia. “

While Yakubu said the attempts were unsuccessful, he noted that the committee needed to “remain vigilant and strengthen its defenses”, a far cry from the impression INEC painted earlier.

Missing data on results table, incorrect election form

Civil society organization YIAGA Africa also shared its findings About Electron Transport Results of Recent Tests Ekiti and Osun governor election.

Samson Itodo, YIAGA’s executive director, said the organization planned an Election Results Analysis Dashboard (ERAD) as a pilot independent audit and sanity testing assessment tool for INEC’s results management.

Issues identified include incorrect entry and omission of data on results forms, incorrect uploading of election forms and other inconsistencies that threaten the transparency of the electronic transmission process.

“In the Ekiti election, 88 result tables were not entered into the ERAD database due to problems with disabled data entry. Similarly, in the Osun election, 87 results were not processed by ERAD due to certain issues,” Itodo said.

“Based on ERAD’s findings, the presiding officer of INEC uploaded a form or document other than the EC8A form as prescribed in the election guidelines and handbook.

“From the results table downloaded on IReV, it appears that important demarcation data, such as the number of registered voters and number of accredited voters in voting units, were either omitted or entered incorrectly in the EC8A form.

“The monitoring process also revealed that there were differences in the total number of ballots rejected and the figure published by INEC when it was finalized.”

After voting, results management is easily the most critical aspect of election administration. In fact, for most politicians, it’s probably more important than voting. The reason for this is not far-fetched. While voting is a public and public activity, results management is usually administered by a small number of election officials, mostly out of public view.

INEC said the electronic transmission of results would improve the quality of the election and increase public confidence in the electoral process. But its debut in the Ekiti and Osun elections continues to raise questions.

While one could try to understand this as a new avenue for the committee, it could also be argued that there was enough time to consolidate defenses and strategies to ensure smooth electronic transmission of results.

“We cannot be 100% sure of the accuracy”

BVAS machine

In an interview with TheCable, Adeboye Adegoke, program manager at the Paradigm Initiative, said INEC’s electronic delivery would need to achieve equality and inclusion across the country before it could be considered effective.

“As an organization working on digital rights and inclusion, what we were looking for in this case was the technology available in every corner of Nigeria to potentially enable INEC to do this,” he said.

“INEC has assured that they have whatever technology is needed to make this happen across the country, but the problem is that in some cases they were able to upload the results to the server and in some other places they were not able to. — in other words, manual and digital transfers. That leads to a lot of misconduct and other issues.”

Omotola Abidemi, a data analyst and researcher at Fredrich Ebert Stiftung Open Minds Young Voices, agrees that INEC’s onerous mandate and the country’s fragile data systems may hinder efforts to efficiently transmit results electronically, but sees it as a necessary step.

“We have a huge problem with data as a country; I can tell you that. We don’t have a strong database. From a data and technical point of view, yes, there may be faults in the BVAS system, but that doesn’t mean the system Might not work. We’re still working on network issues so we can’t be 100% sure. Servers may even go down due to high traffic,” she told TheCable.

Abidemi added that all the concerns raised are valid, even “it’s not easy to collect PVC, and that’s because of the gap in their technology, let alone the general election?”

INEC: We are aware of our shortcomings

INEC has repeatedly tried to allay Nigerians’ concerns about BVAS security.It maintains the system already Fortified Loose ends have been tightened.

The presidency also supports the commission’s use of the BVA in the upcoming election.

Presidential Spokesperson Femi Adesina, Say Technology was instrumental to Buhari’s presidency, and it will be equally important to his successors.

Despite constant assurances, the committee acknowledges that there may be flaws.

INEC spokesperson Rotimi Oyekanmi told The Cable that the commission is aware of its shortcomings but has taken stringent steps to seamlessly assimilate technology and increase Nigerians’ trust in the electoral system.

“INEC realizes that the technological world is full of dangers. For various reasons, websites and servers in many countries are constantly being hacked or are at risk of being hacked by dark forces. Fortunately, there are also cybersecurity measures that have proven Very effective, the intent of cyber predators is to kill and disrupt,” he said.

“For that matter, in hindsight, the Commission has been careful to adopt only the right technology relevant to its needs, while taking cybersecurity concerns seriously.”

Oyekanmi said the committee had begun covering the rationale for “extensive training of staff and temporary staff handling BVAS and will ensure adequate protection of all sites we deploy for the 2023 general election”.

But with the number of registered voters increasing and the number of voters likely to increase in the 2023 election, will INEC be able to demonstrate results management capabilities, especially electronic transmission?

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