Using manual voting system to collect votes from the citizens is no longer considered efficient due to the various recurring errors. Due to this paper ballot based election system, voters face some problems before or during elections and others are faced by the administration before and after the voting. It is not a fluke that public election system constitutes the backbone of a democracy where the people have to elect their leaders and the electoral body saddles with the responsibility of conducting a free and fair elections in Nigeria, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), currently uses a manual system, which causes several kinds of problems. Though, INEC introduced a bit a technology to the voting process via card reader for the authentication of voters but the card reader has its own challenges such as failure to read voters’ fingerprint and other malfunction associated with it.
The technical know-how and ill trained adhoc staff of INEC posses a treat to the technology. In other to resolve the headaches of voting in an election, online voting is the key. In the new era of advanced technology where electronic system boosts work speed, reduces mistakes and promotes the generation of accurate results, having manual election system becomes a misfortune.
An electronic system, which involves procedures like registration of voters, authentication of electorates, vote casting, vote counting, collation and declaring results etc., would constitute a good solution to replace current system.
Voter details will be stored against their fingerprints in the main database, which will eliminate multiple registrations.
In this system, voter will select his/her preferable candidate by providing his or her opinion on a touch screen/or via keyboard where all candidates for an election will be displayed. The votes and result will be encrypted and manipulated automatically by the system in a real time and this will birth fast, accurate, reliable and acceptable election result by all and sundry.
Background to the Study
In a democratic country, voting is the process through which people choose their leaders and help to setup a democratic government. So the voting system should be reliable, accurate and it must be transparent.
In a situation where voting is seen as warfront, closure of the entire country’s economy activities, mundane and time wasting, disenfranchisement of some people, intimidation of the populace at polling station, card reader malfunction, etc.; it will be difficult for true representation of peoples’ will which is key to a democratic process.
In Nigeria, general elections are held every four years to elect the President, Governors and legislators using manual voting system. They are elected by the people to represent them. The National Assembly has 469 legislators representing respective constituencies and districts; and state legislators. The main advantage of manual systems is that ballot papers are easily human auditable. Though the disadvantages outweigh the advantages for instance; printing of ballot papers is expensive, inflexible and also last minute changes to the voter register or candidates are difficult to accommodate among others.
Throughout history, election fraud has occurred in many electoral processes from which experience shows that the manual voting system is a major source of such vices and violence in many democratic countries. For instance, in 2007, Nigeria late president Umar Musa Yaradu’a confirmed that the election that brought him into power was not free and fair which led to setting up of electoral reform panel. Among many of their recommendations was the introduction of an electronic voting system into our electoral process.
Therefore, let us examine some challenges faced during voting using manual voting system?
• Late arrival of electoral officials and materials which at times drags the voting into the night; taking into consideration the epilepsy nature of our electricity and which gives room for election malpractices;
• Insufficient Electoral materials which delays the commencement of election in some polling units;
• Some polling units’ terrain are bad which makes access difficult;
• After casting of votes, the presiding officers will mark a voter with an ink on the nail and this can be remove by applying some ointment thereby increasing the chances of multiple voting by a voter;
• Sometimes, a voter can accidently thump print in between two candidates thereby making the vote invalid as another ballot paper cannot be issued;
• Overburden of the security agencies on election days;
• Delay in the release of election result;
• Shutting down Nigerians economic activity;
• Ballot snatching and abductions of electoral officials;
• Some election officials’ / security agents paying the supreme price in the course of discharging their duties;
• Huge cost of conducting elections; etc.
Following the above setbacks of manual voting system in Nigeria, the need for electronic voting system cannot be over emphasized. The need for a smooth and seamless process of voting is key to sustainability of Nigeria’s democracy. Electronic voting systems have been used privately in many modern nations and publicly in the United States, the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Estonia, etc, which have resulted in great gains as true reflection of representation of peoples’ will on who governs them.
To hold a one-man-one-vote and guard against disenfranchisement of electorates in this country, though the road is long but it is not early to start preparations towards electronic voting which is the only way it can be achieved. Over the last few years, there have been different clarion calls for electronic voting system and in 2017, The National Assembly passed a Bill for the amendment of the Electoral Act 2010, approving e-voting and legalized the existing electronic voter accreditation system.
According to Ekeh (2016), in a paper titled – New thoughts, ideas and innovations on use of ICT in elections; he affirmed that the gains recorded with the use of the card readers in the 2015 general elections goes a long way to show that with the adoption of e-voting, the country will take a huge step towards sound democratic governance. He further stated that the time is ripe for Nigeria to deepen its democratic culture through the full deployment of electronic voting during elections.
Electronic voting (also known a EVM or e-voting) refers to voting using an electronic medium as against the traditional means of voting.
It is also an election system that allows a voter to record his or her secure and secret ballot electronically. It can be use to either eliminate or aid the procedure of casting and counting of votes.
In general, two main types of e-voting can be identified:
1. E-voting which is physically supervised by representatives of independent electoral authorities (INEC). The electronic voting machines will be located at designated polling stations like an ATM machines
2. Remote e-voting via the internet (also referred to as i-voting or online voting) where the voters vote at the comfort of their homes using their computers, laptops, mobile phones etc. without going to a polling station
Electronic votes are stored digitally in a storage medium before being sent to a centralized location where tabulation programs compile and tabulate results. With this technology in place, voters will no longer have to travel back to their wards to cast their votes. Furthermore, INEC can also monitor the entire process easily as each electronic voting device is equipped with a tracker and can be configured to shut down immediately voting ends.
Statement of the Research Problem
After the 2015 general elections, several electoral petition tribunals were inaugurated to look into different cases of elections violation. Some cases went as far as to the Supreme Court, while some sitting governors, legislators spent time in and out of court. The summary of the petitions boils down to election malpractices and shortcomings of manual election system.
Therefore, developing an e-voting system for smooth, efficient, timely and effective to conduct elections in Nigeria will eradicate all forms of election malpractices and in turn reduces the number of election petitions cases file.
The foregoing has elicited a number of questions and attentions from governments, mass media, human rights activists, etc. The deployment of electronic voting systems, however, is limited in practice since many open questions still remain.
Some pertinent questions to enable the study attains its stated objectives are as follows:
• How do we ensure that votes are counted correctly?
• How do we ensure that e-voting system works where there is no or limited broadband infrastructure?
• How do we carry everyone along especially the illiterate populace with no formal education?
• How do we protect voters from coercion?
• How do we guard against cyber intrusion?
• How do we ensure that there is no impersonation of voters?
• How do we safeguard the data against corruption?
Aims and Objectives
The aim of this research is to identify the bottleneck in the elections process in Nigeria and enhance it for a smooth, timely and efficient conduct of elections while the specific objectives are:
• Eliminate paper in the voting process
• Enable an electorate to vote anywhere in respective of where they registered
• Eliminate ballot stuffing and multiple voting by ensuring that only registered voters’ vote.
• Substantial reduction in administration cost
• Protection of voters against any attempt of identified theft.
• Elimination of physical storage of ballot papers
• Alteration of election result by any officer of INEC will be impossible
Consequently, the following hypotheses were postulated:
1. The broadband network connectivity in Nigeria is limited thereby making implementation of e-voting an impossible task
2. Constant steady power supply is elusive in Nigeria to drive e-voting
3. There is a notion that e-voting will disenfranchise the populace especially the illiterates
Significance of Study
With the improvement and advancement in information technology throughout the world, Nigeria cannot avoid remaining in the dark ages in the conduct of elections, which is key to our democratic rule.
In view of these, this project will put the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and relevant stakeholders on its toe towards the actualization of a smooth, efficient, timely and effective conduct of elections in Nigeria.
Furthermore, all the grey areas associated with manual voting will be eliminate if e-voting is adopted and administer professionally which in return will further strengthens our democratic process and save cost of conducting an election.
Scope of the Study
This study focused on the needs for e-voting system in Nigeria as against the manual process of conducting elections by making peoples’ vote counts for fairness in the elective positions. It also includes a simulated online voting processes of an election
Definitions of Terms
Ballot Paper: Material with which voters used to cast their votes
issued by INEC.
Ballot Box: A container in which voters drop their votes
Ballot: A vote recorded in an election.
Collation Centre: A designated location where results are collected and sum together.
Computer: An electronic device that accepts data, stores data, processes data and produces an output as information.
Democracy: This is the government of the people for the people and by the people.
Election: The act of choosing a candidate for a position by voting, in which the candidate with the highest votes win the seat.
INEC: Independent National Electoral Commission
Poll: The process of voting at an election.
Poll Station: A centre or venue where voters cast their votes.
Rigging: Manipulating of election result in favour of another person.
Voter’s Card: A card issued to a voter to ascertain that he has the right to vote in an election
Voters Register: A register that contains the data of eligible voters completed by the election official
Limitations of the Study
This study does not focus on developing a functional e-voting system as a pilot scheme for INEC due to its financial implications but highlights the needs for e-voting system in Nigeria in the conduct of elections
Nigeria is located in Western Africa, and borders the Gulf of Guinea, between Benin on the west and Cameroon on the east. It has a compact area of 923,768 square kilometres (356,376 square miles). The country’s land mass extends from the Gulf of Guinea in the south to the Sahel (the shore of the Sahara Desert) in the north. Comparatively, Nigeria is slightly more than twice the size of California, or the size of California, Nevada, and Arizona combined. Abuja, the capital city of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, replaced the former capital city, Lagos, in December 1991, because of its more central location, among other reasons. Lagos remains Nigeria’s commercial capital. Other major Nigerian cities include Ibadan, Kaduna, Kano, Maiduguri, Jos, Port Harcourt, Enugu, Calabar, and Aba.
Ekeh (2016), New thoughts, ideas and innovations on use of ICT in elections