Can electronic voting guarantee free, fair and credible elections? (Final part)

He also cautioned against trusting the voter or the technician who mans the computers because the voter may attempt to vote twice while the technician can do something unthinkable to favour the candidate of one particular party as such it should be ensured that whatever system of voting has safeguards.

The first safeguard should be oversight. Ideally, every step in the process, from ballot preparation before the election up to the final count of the votes should be open to public inspection, limited only by the requirement that there must be no way to connect a particular voted ballot with a particular voter.

Secondly it should be possible to audit the correctness of the vote in the case of a dispute.

Thirdly the ballots should be printed on special paper that makes it difficult to duplicate and should be well secured in boxes which would be opened only in the presence of all the parties involved.

Those clamoring for e-voting in Ghana should stop and ponder because there are big potholes ahead; the reality is that it will be better to deal with the loopholes in the current manual voting system than to ask for wholesale electronic voting with its attendant problems in the next general elections.

For instance after the landmark verdict by the Supreme Court in the 2012 Election Petition it became obvious that it is not easy to battle out election disputes in the court of law.

Some of the contenders have therefore openly sworn to make sure that measures are put in place to forestall any irregularities at the polling stations in the next general elections.

We are yet to see the measures being considered and how successfully they would be rolled out.

However one thing is clear and that is the fact that time is running out.

The other day I overhead two friends discussing elections. One of them believed that without cheating it would be difficult to win elections but the other thought otherwise.

The one who believed in cheating outlined methods that some people have used to manipulate elections.

The methods he outlined included stuffing ballot boxes with thumb printed papers, snatching ballot boxes from opponent’s strongholds, defacing ballots with ink or pencil marks during sorting and counting, inflating or deflating figures during collation.

The other friend seemed familiar with most of the methods outlined but he wondered how defacing of ballots could be possible. He therefore asked for an explanation.

“Before the ballot boxes are opened the official with the intention to cheat either inserts a pencil (lead) under his fingernail or smears an amount of ink into his hair.

During sorting he manages to mark portions of the ballots with the pencil or intentionally scrat-ches his hair to stain his fingers with ink and use same to blot parts of the ballots.

By so doing he renders those ballots invalid,”the friend explained.

Satisfied with the explanation he remarked:”Wonders will never end, if people can design such ways to manipulate elections then we should not hesitate to scru-tinise every process and the officials that have a role to play in our elections.”

The foregoing shows that electronic voting on its own cannot guarantee free, fair and credible elections. Voters, Technicians, Political Parties, the Electoral Commission, Observers and the Security Agencies would need to play their respective roles honestly to make it happen.

By Godfred Blay Gibbah

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