Voice of votes – technology and the Nigerian election

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Voice of Votes has recently started to garner attention in Nigeria and beyond. In the run up to the election, we asked Ismail Jibrin to tell us more about the technology-based offering, and how it could shape the election and its aftermath. You can contact Ismail, here.

EclatVision are a technology company based in Phoenix AZ and Charlotte NC. We have created a technology solution called Voice of Votes (VoV) that uses cell phone technology to: disseminate Nigeria’s 2015 election result in a transparent and verifiable manner by displaying images of election result from each polling station; identify the sources of election rigging and collect material witnesses in the event of legal challenge, and create a social media forum for community engagement and participation in the electoral process.

VoV, a web-based platform, capitalises on the fact that Nigeria is the fastest growing mobile phone market in Africa, with more than 120 million cell phone subscribers and a market penetration of around 75%. More than 80% of all cell phone devices are equipped with a camera and nearly 60% of them are smart phones.

This access to technology means that every Nigerian at a polling station can become an agent of change and be empowered to be a citizen reporter through VoV. International volunteers can also register to help monitor, verify and validate submitted results. Using a mobile phone or  a digital camera, anybody can capture and submit images of electoral conduct and election results for the whole world to see.

Electoral results are made visible at every polling station thanks to the Electoral Act, which came into force in 2010. The act demands that all votes be counted at polling stations and a results sheet be signed by the presiding officer at that polling station, along with all party agents. A copy of this results sheet has to be displayed in public view at the polling station, and other copies must be given to party agents and the police. The INEC chairman has confirmed that taking picture of displayed result is acceptable, stating, “You can take picture [of results] at the centre but not the picture of the ballot papers inside the voting cubicle”.

VoV displays all images of electoral conduct and electoral results submitted to the site and automatically adds up votes by Ward, local government, state and country. We hope that this openness will deter the corruption of results by INEC officials and empower the ordinary Nigerian to verify announced results, convincing them that their  vote counted. Such openness might also convince defeated candidates and their supporters of the validity of announced result, decreasing any incentive to resort to violence.

The less desirable outcome is that VoV exposes major electoral and arithmetic irregularities. While this may exacerbate post-election tensions, we hope that it would also galvanise world leaders and observers to place pressure on Nigeria to rectify the situation. Furthermore, in the case of a legal challenge, VoV images could be brought as evidence, and this might sway the judiciary to act in favour of the wronged party, reducing any risk that scores are settled through violence.

Operational details

VoV is a robust system that combines the power and flexibility of an customisable electronic platform (able to cover any election from a Presidential vote to a Councillor vote) and the simplicity of paper documentation (able to be used by most people with little-to-no training).

Polling agents or volunteers can take picture of displayed result sheet in a polling station using any digital device (camera, cellphone, tablet etc) and this picture can be sent as a text message, email or WhatsApp message to the VoV server. Alternatively, images can be uploaded directly onto the VoV website through a computer or smartphone.

General visitors to the VoV website can: view results in multiple formats (e.g. maps, bar charts, pie charts and tables); drill down from national results to images of individual polling stations; help validate each result entry with a simple ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’ button; post comments on each polling station regarding conduct of election or its result, and, as citizen reporters, they can submit reports of their election experience through images and videos. Registered users (with necessary permissions) can do all of the above and much more, helping to enter, verify and audit the data that is submitted. VoV results can be downloaded, embedded in websites or provided as customised feeds for television stations.

VoV is currently available for testing at www.voiceofvotes.com and it was demonstrated in Kaduna on August 21st 2014. The occasion was attended by representatives from INEC, the Kaduna state government, and leaders of the major PDP and APC. We cherish the opportunity to use VoV and put a stop to Nigeria’s bad cycle of election rigging and post-election violence. We are looking for partners to work with us on this very important project to ensure transparent elections in Africa’s largest democracy.

 

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