We, the GRassroot Front Alliance (GRAFA), are in fact impressed with the kind of advocacy for information system (technology) integration into our democratic dispensation by the Danquah Institute (DI). We should have been supporting such a course considering our rich background in Information System Implementation, but we are very careful again against our background. There are a few things we would want to make clear to a few people who are disillusioned and might have fallen in love with DI’s fantasies about e-Voting.
We have observed and read a number of articles from DI on their position of Ghana (not) preparing itself for e-Voting and citing in their recent article countries like Kenya and India who supposedly have (or are on their way in the case of Kenya) implemented the system but failed to mention instances of some part of the USA where there has been some contentions and the Netherlands where on October 30, 2006 e-Voting was decommissioned and had to go back to the traditional paper-based voting barely 24hours to national elections.
There are a number of issues to consider when opting for e-Voting as a substitute to traditional paper-based voting. These issues may be technical or non-technical. We do not want to bother readers with a lot of technical stuff by concentrating on the non-technical issues. The first is the issue of trust. Elections are “acid tests” for our kind of democracy. Our brothers in other part of Africa have plunged themselves into very bloody situations because of the credibility of their election results. It is therefore important that user Interphases (paper-based or electronic) must be trusted. There has never been any trusted electronic user Interphase anywhere in this world. Countries using Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting machines or the EVM used in India go to the polls only to trust that, their votes have been counted and counted for the persons they voted for. In Ghana, with our high political awareness coupled with the seemingly high stakes, it would be surprising for any voter to go to the polls and assume that at the end of the day, their votes have been counted and for whom they voted for. We believe, despite systemic problems, the paper-based ballot, present the most trusted Interphase for voters.
Also DI should compare the level of literacy (not even to talk about computer literacy) of Ghana to the countries who are implementing e-Voting system. With the easier paper-based system, a lot of eligible voters are normally challenged and this is evidenced in the high rejected ballots rate. The government, instead of rushing to implement e-Voting that has the potential of deliberately disenfranchising the majority of Ghanaians, should channel resources meant for such purpose into educating Ghanaians, so that majority of Ghanaians in the coming future may be in an informed position to consider e-Voting. In 2009, the federal Constitutional Court of Germany, found that when using voting machines, the “verification of the result must be possible by the citizen reliably and without any specialist knowledge of the subject” This ruling sent Germany back to paper-based voting even though it did not ban e-Voting. Can Ghana be there in 2012 or any foreseeable future as DI is yearning for?
The next is the issue of privacy. In any modern democracy, privacy of citizens is of high priority. There should not be anyway, that ballot cast could be traced to a voter. In a biometric voting, it is likely to trace a ballot cast to a voter and in some jurisdictions these are used as verifications as part of post-election audit trails. This may also increase vote buying/selling, voter intimidation and other electoral malpractices. Voters’ privacy may thus be tampered with.
For the technical problems, they range from attacks by hackers, software code integrity to touch screen sensor calibration. For instance, during early voting in Miami, Hollywood and Fort Lauderdale, Florida in October 2006, three votes intended to be recorded for democratic candidate were displayed as cast for republican and election officials attributed it to calibration errors in the touch screen. Imagine what will happen in Ghana if Mills votes are being counted for Nana. With such myriads of challenges even in the developed world, I wonder which people were the participants in the national conference on the viability of e-voting in Ghana that urged the EC to begin the process of implementing e-voting, even on pilot basis.
It is important to understand that, the culture context and the political environment influence the implementation of information systems. Our culture and political context is different from elsewhere referred to as good examples of leaders in the implementation of e-Voting.
DI speculates that, Ghanaians will overwhelmingly embrace e-voting. This is rather surprising and parallels the reality on the ground. Most Ghanaians are very sceptical with computerised systems especially with the experience they have had with the computerised school selection and placement system, the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Database (IPPD) and other ill-implemented information systems. The GRAFA will continue to oppose e-Voting in Ghana because of its fraudulent tendencies which may result in violence more than ever witnessed in previous elections. We simply don’t trust machines voting on our behalf!
We however support the implementation of the Biometric registration in order to prevent multiple registrations. We also suggest a hybrid system such that, there should be biometric authentication at the polling stations and the system (apart from using indelible ink) to confirm whether one has voted or not to prevent multiple voting and at the end of the day reconcile the number of ballot cast with the biometric authentication. Our security institutions must also be strengthened and polling agents trained sufficiently. With these in place, Ghana’s democracy would be on a safe course. Long Live our democracy!
The author is the Chief Information Officer of The GrassRoot Front Alliance, a Koforidua based political research Organization and a pressure group.
Author: Kevor Mark-Oliver
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