Governor Nasir El-Rufai has said that decisions to use electronic voting system in the just concluded local government elections in Kaduna State was the next logical step, after card readers were used in the 2015 elections.
The governor noted that they were suggestions by the chairman of the state independent electoral commission, “It was the chairman of the state independent electoral commission, Dr. Saratu Dikko Audu, who was my chemistry teacher in the university that proposed the idea of electronic voting because, she felt that since we used the card reader in the 2015 elections, the next logical step is to connect the card reader to an electronic voting system and we supported it.
He explained “They went on a study tour to Brazil, India to study their own voting systems and they finally ended up with a manufacturer in China. The same manufacturer that manufactured the card reader designed and manufactured the electronic voting machines for us.
“The independent electoral commission of Kaduna State brought in 300 of the machines and spent some months going round the state, market places, and people’s homes to test the use of the machines to show that ordinary people can use it. It cost us a lot of money, the entire election cost us in the region of N4 billion.
He added “But, mind you with the electronic voting now we don’t need ballot paper, so we saved N1.7 billion in ballot papers alone. And, these machines can be used for three or four more elections because they can last for 10 years, all we need is to upgrade the software to add more parties and so on.
“So, we believe that overall is good value for money and it has worked very well. What we are very happy about is that ordinary people could use it, the interface was friendly, simply and you can finish voting for the chairman and chancellor in less than 15 seconds.”
On the difference it made in terms of credibility, Governor el-Rufai, “I think it gave people the confidence that their votes mattered and for many people that didn’t even want to go out to vote in the elections, curiosity of the electronic voting machines brought them out.
“It made a lot of difference because the electronic voting machine has a record of how many people have voted and once the time for voting closes, it closes and you cannot take it and add more votes. Of course human factors intervened; some people abducted the presiding officers with the machines and engaged in multiple voting.
“Some people tried to change the results and of course we are still doing manual collection. But the data in the electronic voting machine can still be used to discredit some of those changes during the tribunal process. And in areas where there were gross abuses in some of the wards and local governments, SIKON has decided that they will be by-elections.
“One of the problems that led to the human factor problems that I mentioned was because INEC denied us the use of the Card reader. When we were designing the machine, we had the option of integrating the card reader, so that you come with your voters’ card, put in your voters card biometrically confirmed that it is your card and then the machine will open for you to vote.
“But we thought that that will be too complicated since people are used to being accredited separately, it is better we take INEC’s card reader for accreditation and then our machine for voting. But a week to the election, INEC said they are not going to give us the card reader. The reasons they gave to me were not acceptable.
“I called the chairman and I tried to persuade him to make it available to us but we didn’t get the card reader. I am hoping, I have spoken to him again, that for the bye-elections, the two local governments and the other wards, we are going to get the card reader so that the human link that is subject to abuse would be eliminated and hence you cannot change anything.
“If you change anything the card reader will expose the number of those accredited and that number must tally with the number of people that voted, otherwise the result gets automatically cancelled. So we are working on that. So I have just seen Mr. President, I have briefed him on this and he has expressed his pleasure at the way and manner as a party in Kaduna, we are allowed free and fair elections.
“The president believes in free, fair and credible elections and he said it doesn’t matter if you lose some local governments, what is important is for the elections to be free and fair. This is an APC government, it is a government of fairness and justice and he was very happy with the way we conducted the elections with Kaduna so far.”