A case for mitigating technical failures in electronic voting systems

Posted by Group Kenya on Saturday, December 24, 2016 at 1:51 pm


There has never been an online election in any African country in the past mainly because of lack of goodwill from the outgoing political regimes, and partly due to poor telecommunication infrastructure and inadequate power supply in most polling stations.

Therefore the DP was not right to tell Kenyans that they may be disenfranchised when they turn out to vote next year due to possible power failures, and therefore the election laws on the use of ICT must be amended.

Manual voter identification is prone to abuse, and that is why IEBC could not account for the abnormal voter turnout in some regions. So the new law introduced the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) that uses information technology to capture your physiological data like your facial features (photo) or your thumb print.

This information is saved electronically and maintained in a central computer device as a database for authenticating registered voters. Anyone can query this database online at anytime to check for their registration validity at any time, and anyone whose details don’t exist in the register are not qualified to vote.

However, this database may not be easily accessible during the voting period because of:

1. Human intervention:- the IEBC systems administrator may disconnect the cable connecting the database server to sabotage the election process.
2. KPLC may switch off their power stations thereby affecting most polling stations.
3. The IEBC agents at the polling stations may have instructions to interfere with the operating systems (OS) of the laptops controlling the EVID (Electronic Voter Identification Devices) at the polling stations, causing unnecessary system delays, and thereby frustrating voters who may have been queuing for long to give up and go home.
4. Inadequate civic education.
5. Hackers.

It is possible to identity possible solutions that will ensure that the voting process proceeds in the event such eventualities arise.

1. IEBC can mitigate against network failures by ensuring that equipment used pollings station is preloaded with a copy of a certified IEBC voter register for use in voter identification on the polling day, instead of sending queries across the network to a database server in Narobi. (This will allow those voting for presidential elections only to vote from anywhere)
2. Power backups must be made available by ensuing IEBC is adequately funded to acquire powerful generators and UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) sources in every polling station. This is affordable even with the IEBC budget estimates of the last general election.
3. All participants in the general election should be allowed to assign an ICT expert to observe the computing devices used with the view of reporting if any of them have been compromised.

It is my opinion that if all issues raised above are properly addressed, then Kenya will have one of the best credible elections ever whose outcome will inspire confidence in all of us.

Be free to put some more input if you believe in a free and fair elections.

Long live Kenya.

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