Election glitches seen on INEC’s 200,000 voting machines

The 200,000 Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) machines the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) planned to deploy across the 176,000 polling units for the 2023 general election may not be sufficient for a hitch-free election, some political analysts have said.

They said insufficient deployment of the machines could cause glitches during the elections.

They said Nigeria should take lessons from the Kenyan election where a similar technology was deployed.

According to the country’s electoral umpire, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, 55,000 Kenyan Integrated Election Management System biometric kits were deployed to serve more than 22.1 million voters across 46,233 polling units.

Glitches were recorded in some polling stations due to the inability of a few machines to capture faces and upload user databases, which led to delay and use of manual registration in a few places.

The technology, which recorded significant success in the recent state elections in Nigeria, also encountered glitches, which led to the extension of some polls in places like the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

Cecilia Uwakwe, a political analyst who voted in the FCT election, told BusinessDay that there was a need to deploy more of the BVAS machines to ensure a fast and credible election in 2023.

She said: “I was part of the FCT council election and will tell you that the 2023 general election is a very serious one. INEC needs to do more to ensure it is very successful in leveraging the BVAS. There should be at least two machines in each polling unit to ensure this works perfectly, and looking at the numbers, 200,000 machines against 176,000 polling units means it is not achievable.

“During the FCT election, many of us were stranded with the machine and waited so long to exercise our franchise. Places, where these machines have been previously tested, should be an eye-opener to INEC. I’m not against technology but just concerned about the numbers to serve the whole population.”

Nelson Onuh, a top member of a political party, said the 200,000 BVAS machines cannot be adequate for the 2023 general election.

He said: “If there must be a free and fair election in 2023, the BVAS technology is the determinant. The 200,000 BVAS machines cannot be enough. You cannot predict the outcome of an election in areas where there is a network breach using only one BVAS machine. Accreditation and election cannot be possible on the same day using one BVAS considering the population.

“There should be excess supplies of these machines because it is the first of their kind. Nigeria has what it takes to even keep 5 BVAS in one polling unit and there are a lot of reasons for that. Once the machine malfunctions, there is room for rigging and people will use it as an avenue to push blames. So let’s make it widely available.”

Onuh said there should be a display of these machines across all platforms and more awareness should be created at the grassroots.

“People in the rural areas should also know more about this machine. It is a new development and you can’t bring an elderly person who doesn’t know about the technology to stand in front of the machine and in the end, you dismiss her in the name of she was not captured. It is a very big device that gives quality election results but when we don’t have it in excess, people will not vote,” he said.

He said the BVAS machine should be deployed in a way Nigerians will see more quality in it than the Smart Card Reader by making numerous provisions and getting skilled personnel to manage it.

Bekee Emmanuel, a leader in one of Nigeria’s political parties, explained that the personnel to handle the machines remained the major challenge, adding that there must be a provision of capable hands to monitor, maintain and manage the technology.

“These machines are newly introduced and we have not used them before in our electoral system. There is a need to ensure that those handling this device are well trained and in excess. If we get them trained, we are a step ahead of achieving success,” he said, “All of the 200,000 machines also need to be test-run to know the battery capacity and the functionality before the election commences. If the devices don’t go through these processes, you might encounter failure and disappointments on that fateful day.”

Read also: Explainer: BVAS and reasons for failure

According to him, testing the BVAS machines will guarantee their effectiveness, and relying on what has been packaged by the distributors may be an avenue to accommodate failure and disappointment comes 2023.

Emmanuel also pointed out that other facilities that support the BVAS machines also need to be in order and must be made available.

“We know that the BVAS machines are human-made and they also have the capacity of failing at any point in time. So there may be a possibility of failure. The 24,000 extra should be kept on standby for replacement and the issue is how we get to replace them. So, adequate mobility should be made available to make the changes faster. There should be a fast signal that should be connected to places where the different machines are kept for immediate replacement.”

He said that enough technicians who are well trained by experts from the production companies where the machines are produced should also be deployed in all polling units to fix minor issues that might emanate from the machines while serious cases will call for immediate replacement.

He said the networking system of these machines should also be a major consideration to achieve its purpose, especially in areas without stable internet.

Meanwhile, Leo Omobolejo, who worked in the small room during the Ekiti State election said: “I was opportune to work in the small room during the Ekiti state governorship election for a party.

The machine was delivered and was timely just that it malfunctioned in some rural areas due to network failure. It is far better than the Smart Card Reader but INEC needs to prepare well for areas with network issues or fix it ahead of the 2023 election.”

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