IEBC’s high-tech system to guard against ballot stuffing

By Sunday Standard team | Saturday, Jul 22nd 2017 at 21:03
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IEBC will use the Kenya Integrated Elections Management System kit in biometric verification and results transmission on Election Day. [Photo: File, Standard]

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has assured that the integrity of the August 8 election has been guaranteed through tamper-proof technology.

The Kenya Integrated Elections Management Systems (KIEMS) has unique features that will make double voting, ballot stuffing, and irreconcilable voting patterns impossible. IEBC is already preparing to deploy 45,000 KIEMS kits to be used in all the 40,883 polling stations across the country.

Every polling station has been allocated a Kit with a maximum number of 700 voters depending on the size of the polling centre. By implication, voters in a polling station cannot exceed the allocated number.

The KIEMS technology has two main functions in this election. The first is biometric identification of voters on the election day and results transmission after counting the votes.

The Commission has made it mandatory for all voters to be identified biometrically to close the doors for possibility of resurrection of dead voters.

IEBC Chief executive officer Ezra Chiloba said the Commission has invested heavily in technology and can guarantee successful transmission of election results.

“We have no choice really. The law already demands of us to electronically transmit presidential results from the polling station to the tallying centres,” he said.

After counting of results, the presiding officers in the presence of party agents are expected to type the total number of votes garnered by each candidate into the kit.

The kit aggregates the results automatically and the total number of votes cast for all the candidates is recorded. In cases where the number of voters exceeds the total number of registered voters, the kits shall automatically reject the results. This measure, according to the Commission, effectively makes ballot stuffing impossible.

As an additional measure to guarantee the integrity of elections results, the presiding officer shall scan Form 34A using the KIEMS kit. The Form 34A is signed by both the presiding officer and party agents. Once scanned, the presiding officer shall, together with the text results, send the same to the national tallying centre and constituency tallying centres.

The kit shall equally report turnout trends periodically throughout the day. With this kind of monitoring, the Commission says, ability to identify abnormal voting patterns is guaranteed.

At the end of the voting, said Mr Chiloba, the presiding officers in the presence of party agents are required to reconcile the number of voters recorded by KIEMS as having voted and the number of ballot papers issued.

“We have two procedures that minimise the risk of ballot stuffing. One, the voter turnout as recorded by KIEMS. Two, the ballot papers reconciliation that happens at the end of voting. The number of ballots papers issued and the records of voter turnout as registered by KIEMS should be able to reconcile,” he said.

The Commission contends that once the presiding officer has pressed the “Submit” button, the results cannot be changed by anyone.

Using an encrypted format, the results shall then be transmitted to the tallying centres through a secure network in real-time. The public will be able to view the results online. Similarly, Media will have a dedicated connection to access real-time results as well.

According to ICT sources within the commission, the KIEMS have a unique in-built audit trail. The in-build audit trail enables the commission to collect all the kits and to retrieve records from the SD cards for any analysis at the end of voting. This in-built accountability tools implies that the process of voting can be subjected to objective scrutiny at any point in time after voting.

A commissioner within IEBC however said the degree of success or failure in identification of voters and transmission of votes depends entirely on the network infrastructure and the capacity of presiding officers to use the technology.

“This is why we have insisted and we have told the secretariat as much, that we must explore the use of satellite devices to increase network coverage for purposes of the General Election. But we also know the cost implications of applying the satellite option but I think the commission has no option than to explore ways of ensuring our mandate is met,” she said.

Chiloba said the commission has developed alternative procedures that increase the rate of successful transmission and training of presiding and returning officers has also been undertaken.

“Experience from other parts of the Africa indicate that the rate of transmission of results increases significantly when presiding officers are allowed to move to where there is network coverage in order to transmit the results.

As long as mechanisms for accountability are in place, it will be important to give flexibility to presiding officers to move to where there is network coverage. In the worst case scenario, the presiding officer together with the agents may have to travel all the way to the constituency tallying centres to transmit results from there,” he said.

But even as IEBC boasts of strong technology, threats of cybercrime are real.

“Since February this year, we have been setting up new ICT infrastructure and data centres – including back-ups. We are now in the period of transiting from old to new infrastructure. Working with our partners, we hope to deliver an efficient and credible elections,” said Chiloba.

Asked why the KIEMS is not connected to internet to allow access to the entire voter register, the CEO said it was a deliberate effort to ensure the integrity of the register.

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