Local IT company defines solution to electoral problems(Wednesday, November 6, 2013) pg 55
|Mr Michael Quarshie (right) showing some of the new electoral solutions systems during the official demonstration in Accra.d caption|
The Chief Executive Officer of Persol Systems Limited, a local software development company, has challenged the Electoral Commission (EC) to use local solutions to deal with challenges confronting the country’s electoral system.Mr Michael Quarshie said it was time the country moved beyond just looking at the basic way of voting and causing people to fight at polling stations, since technology existed to fill the gap left by human error.
He was speaking at a demonstration of the company’s biometric voter verification and voting kit in Accra.
The event brought together the leadership of some political parties in the country, civil society and the media.
Among other features, the system is such that it captures the data of persons including those who cannot be verified biometrically, scans ballot papers using barcodes to eliminate the possibility of ballot stuffing.
The system addressed most of the issues that were at the heart of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) petition to the Supreme Court including biometric verification, over voting and the signature of presiding officers.
During the simulation exercise of the system, each ballot was scanned before the ballot was cast and also scanned during the counting and the collation of ballot papers to validate the ballot paper and also to validate the result of each candidate in the elections.
Biometric verification was one of the key issues that dominated the 2012 elections and the petition challenging the result of the presidential elections.
The Supreme Court dismissed in its landmark, ruling the petitioners’ claim of voting without verification.
On election day, December 7, 2012, most of the verification machines broke down some hours into the election and had to be replaced at some polling stations, while in other areas, voters had to return the next day to vote.
The court also dismissed the petitioners’ claim of presiding officers not signing forms which they said invalidated the results per electoral laws of the country.
To deal with that, the system has been designed to make it compulsory for the presiding officer and polling agents to sign the results which are generated by computer after the inputs are made.
It is such that without the signature of the presiding officer, the system will not move to the next step. In case a polling agent does not sign the result, there is also a way of capturing the reason for the failure to sign the document.
Additionally, all results are encrypted on an SD-card which is sent to the collation centre instead of papers.
Making a strong case for the adoption of the system in 2016, Mr Quarshie said “Our system does a lot more than verification. We’ve come up with a unique way of ensuring that the ballot issued is a unique one, and tied to a verified voter more or less, and through that process of a unique ballot ID, we’re able to identify foreign materials or foreign ballot in the ballot box”.
“We basically thought we need the solution that takes us to the next level in our development as a nation.
We need to be able to move beyond just looking at the basic way of voting and having people fight at polling stations, we can all behave as matured and civilised people. When we come to the polling station and vote and find that there were some materials at where they are not supposed to be, technology is now enabling us to pick out that foreign ballot,” he added.
At each step of the exercise, the ballot papers and votes had to be validated by a scanner, a process described as cumbersome.
But Mr Quashie said “We brought in those steps because we don’t want to create confusion at the polling station during counting and sorting, if the parties and the EC looks at it and want it modified”.
Civil society assessment
Assessing the system, Major General Nii Carl Coleman (rtd) said it had tried to answer some of the questions that were sticky during the election petition hearing.
“This is only the first time we are seeing it and we’ll need to seek further clarifications so that we can feel comfortable with it but it is a huge improvement,” he said.
Political parties’ assessment
The Member of Parliament for Akuapem South, Mr O.B Amoah, was full of praise for the system as it answered most of the questions raised by the petitioners during the 2012 election petition hearing.
The Progressive Peoples Party, Secretary General, Mr Kofi Siaw, for his part, observed that It was a very good software that eliminated some of the challenges that came with the 2012 elections including over-voting, collating issues and the problem of presiding officers not signing forms.
“It takes the human element out of the elections and puts a lot of sanity into counting and declaration of votes.”