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How to Rig General Election

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By: Christopher Aublic Ligomeka

This Article is prepared by me in personal capacity reflecting on the issue based on my one yearresearch I conducted. The opinions expressed in this article are my own and some quoted from the media and other researchers before me. Hence it does not reflect the view of the any NationalAuthorities/Governing bodies mentioned, Political Parties mentioned.

Knowledge is foundation to greatness, but knowledge alone is useless without an ingredient of experience”-Christopher Aublic Ligomeka

You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else

It is enough that the people know there was an election. The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything.” –Joseph Stalin

If you think that the ruling arrivals would leave it up to the voters to decide who gets elected, you should think again. Every single candidate who actually challenges the status quo becomes a target.

Vote rigging has been the main issue of general elections in many countries, especially developing nations it is more common than poor countries due to the vulnerabilities associated with modern

methods off election process. There are lot of allegations concerning this issue in many parts of the word but we have addressed it with less effort or even burring it to rest.

  • Firstly, I want us to know at what points does rigging occur?
  • Secondly, I want each to contribute on how to prevent from Happening again
  • Finally, what lessons are there for Malawi in preparing to hold general elections in May 2019?
  • First of all let’s define what is ELECTORAL SYSTEM in a Democratic Nation.

An electoral system is the set of rules which must be followed for a vote to be considered valid, on how votes are counted and aggregated to yield a final result. It is a method by which voters make a choice between candidates.,

The most common voting systems are Majority voting, Plurality voting, Proportional representation , and Mixedvoting.

Those who are unfamiliar with voting theory will learn that the common “majority rule” systems can produce results that the majority does not support. If every election had only two choices, the winner would be determined using majority rule alone. However, when there are more than two options, there may not be a single option that is most liked or most disliked by a majority. A simple choice does not allow voters to express their feeling. Different voting systems may give very different results, particularly in cases where there is no clear majority preference. Now let’s look at types of electoral systems currently in use world wide.

ELECTORAL SYSTEMS

1. Plurality electoral systems

Is also called first-past-the-post or systems, plurality systems simply award a seat to the individual candidate who receives the most votes in an election. The candidate need not get a majority (50%+) of the vote to win; so long as he has a larger number of votes than all other candidates, he is declared the winner.

Such an electoral system, though, clearly does not represent the interests of all (or even most) voters. In fact, since a candidate need have only a plurality of votes to be elected, most voters may actually have voted againstthe winner (although their votes are split among several candidates).

In plurality means that less than 50% voted for the person or issue, but one person got more than any others.

 

2. Majority electoral Systems

Also called “second ballot” systems, it require that candidates achieve a majority of votes defined as 50%-plus-one-vote in order to win. If no candidate gets a majority of votes, then a second round of voting is held (often a week or so after the initial ballot). In the second round of voting, only a select number of candidates from the first round are allowed to participate.

A majority means that more than 50% of the voters voted for the person

3. Proportional representation System

Proportional representation is a voting system whereby successful parties gain seats in direct proportion to the number of votes they accrue at an election. It is the main rival to plurality-majority electoral systems. These systems were devised to solve the many problems caused by plurality and majority voting systems. Hence this voting systems provide more accurate representation of parties, better representation for political a minorities, fewer wasted votes, higher levels of voter turnout, etc

Mixed Voting System

Is a voting system that combines some features of a proportional voting system and some of a first past the post(FPTP) system. There are two ways to be elected in this system, the first is by personally winning a seat (by winning the most votes). The second is through being high enough on a party’s list so as to qualify for election.

Now from such basic understanding let’s look further at the procedures and process to casting votes (ballot) and how it is exploited.

On election day, you go to the voting station or center at which you’re registered.

Then you are required show your voters ID to verify your voting status and the voting officer checks that your name appears on the voters’ roll. If you are not on the voters’ roll, but have proof that you have registered, the Presiding Officer must validate your proof of registration. If he/she is satisfied with the proof, you will then be allowed to continue as an ordinary voter. Once the voting officer is satisfied that you have the correct ID, and you are a registered voter and have not already voted, your name is marked off the roll. You then take your ballot paper to an empty ballot booth, mark your favourite candidate on the ballot paper, then you place the ballot paper in the ballot box.

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER VOTE IS CAST

Scrutiny and Tally

Once the voting has ended, the officers will proceed to scrutinize and count the votes cast at the polling site level. The scrutiny consists of the revision and accurate classification of all of the electoral ballots received. The tally implies the count of the votes cast. then Head polling officer will announce and post the results on a visible place outside of the facilities where the site was installed for party representatives to acknowledge as well as observers . These notifications are signed by the each party representatives who wish to do so before announcement.

Results and Declaration of Validity for the Election

This stage comprises a wide series of activities that start with the delivery of the electoral package and dossier of each polling site to the corresponding district council for example, and ends with the total tallying and declaration of validity carried out by the Electoral body. In order for the preliminary results of the elections to be available as soon as possible at a national level from regional and district level, there must be quicker way of posting results either through post, electronic, fax, email, etc

The electoral officials of each site will file each election, in order to dispatch the documentation to Main Tally Center that is physically after posting un-official results through fax, email, phone etc.

WHAT IS RIGGING AND WHERE DOES RIGGING OCCUR

1) Vote rigging is one of election irregularities. In its narrower aspects, vote rigging points to irregularities in the polling, counting, tallying and announcement of election results. Generally it includes fraud by multiple voting, voting by underage persons, adding ballots marked by persons who are not voting legally, interference with boxes, exclusion of valid ballots by counting officials, denying marginalised voters the right to vote, falsification of results sheet or deliberate fraud in tabulating results. Intimidation, attacks on voters, intimidation of candidates, false closure of or information about polling centers etc.

 

2) Vote rigging can occur at any stage of the electoral cycle. In the pre-electoral stage some governments interfere with the planning process by: Deliberately underfunding activities like staff training and civil voter education that leads to an level playing field. Incumbent governments may interfere with the voter registration process by deliberately failing to fund it on time and/or by interfering with the procurement of appropriate systems. The election period is where the most visible vote rigging takes place. During the vote, these include: impersonation, multiple voting, deliberate shortage of materials, closure before time, etc. When calculating the vote: tally sheets are adulated, others are swapped, or excluded from the final tally by voiding good ballots on improper grounds.

 

 

3) General suggestions for eliminating or reducing vote rigging to a minimum: The best way to prevent all forms of rigging, either at the polling station, during the count, or during aggregation, is to enhance transparency. That may require legal or procedural reform, and can also require comprehensive deployment of non-partisan observers, or effective party monitoring. Have election management bodies that introduce mechanisms, which can be used as tools to undertake continuous monitoring of each electoral preparatory process at public level. A critical part is tofollow a design which provides conditions that facilitate and prevent fraud. Adequate funding, accurate voter registers, every stakeholder must play its mandated role efficiently and effectively, without favour or fear: the media, the judiciary, and civil society and security forces.

 

PAST EXPERIENCES

In American presidential election on 2 November 2004, electronic voting machines were again in the news. Computerised machines lost votes, subtracted votes, and doubled some votes too. And because many of these machines haD no paper audit trails, a large number of votes were never counted. As if not enough way back after the year 2000 election also, voting machine problems made international headlines. The government appropriated money to fix the problems nationwide. Unfortunately, electronic voting machines although presented as the solution had largely made the problem worse. And it was advised that these machines should not be abandoned, but to be re-designed to increase both their accuracy, and peoples’ trust in their accuracy.

Before I discuss electronic voting system, I need to explain why voting is so difficult. In my view, a voting system has four required characteristics:

  1. Accuracy. The goal of any voting system is to establish the intent of each individual voter, and translate those intents into a final tally. To the extent that a voting system fails to do this, it is undesirable. This characteristic also includes security: It should be impossible to change someone else’s vote, stuff ballots, destroy votes, or otherwise affect the accuracy of the final tally.
  2. Scalability. Voting systems need to be able to handle very large elections. Nearly 120 million people voted in the US presidential election. About 372 million people voted in India’s May 2004 national elections, and over 115 million in Brazil’s October 2004 local elections. The complexity of an election is another issue.
  3. Speed. Voting systems should produce results quickly.

Through the centuries, different technologies have done their best. New computerised voting machines promises even more efficiency, and Internet voting even more convenience. But in the rush to adopt or implement improved speed and scalability, accuracy has been sacrificed.

Trust a computer to be inaccurate

Technology gets in the way of accuracy by adding steps. Each additional step means more potential errors, simply because no technology is perfect. At each step, errors can occur. If the ballot is confusing, some voters will vote wrongly. Mistakes in tabulation either in the machine or when machine totals get aggregated into larger totals also cause errors.

A manual system of tallying the ballots by hand, and then doing it again to double-check, is more accurate simply because there are fewer steps.

So are we willing to sacrifice accuracy to get a voting system that will handle large and complicated elections more quickly.

In close races, errors can affect the outcome, and that’s the point of a recount. A recount is an alternate system of tabulating votes: one that is slower (because it’s manual), simpler (because it just focuses on one race), and therefore more accurate.

With this background, the problem with computerised voting machines becomes clear. Actually computerised voting machines are considered bad choice. Many of today’s mechanical voting technologies involve computers too. Computers tabulate both punch cards and optical scan machines.

What’s important about these problems is not that they result in a less accurate tally, but that the errors can not uniformly distributed. They can affect one candidate more than the other.

And then there’s security

Another issue is that software can be ‘hacked’. That is, someone can deliberately introduce an error that modifies the result in favour of his preferred candidate.

This has nothing to do with whether the voting machines are connected to the network on election day. The threat is that the computer code (Source code or commands how the program/software should run) could be modified while it is being developed and or during election process resulting into fault , either by one of the programmers or a hacker who gains access to the voting-machine company’s network. It’s much easier to surreptitiously modify a software system than a hardware system, and it’s much easier to make these modifications undetectable.

Malicious changes or errors in the software can have far-reaching effects. A problem with a manual machine just affects that machine. A software problem, whether accidental or intentional, can affect many thousands of machines and skew the results of an entire election.

CROSS CHECKING

Now based on the factors, experience to other nations, and information we have shared, let’s apply to our own scenario over 20 May Elections in 2014. If you recall over 20 May 2014 General Elections, prior to elections, the Malawi Electoral Commission Chairperson assured the country that the elections will not be rigged after rumourshad circulated before the election. But we observed that a lot was left to be desired and irregularities included:

  • The arrest of presiding officers who were “caught in the act of rigging
  • Some people voting up to three times
  • some candidates won more votes than the number of registered voters
  • Discarded and tampered ballots
  • Communication devices of some monitors being blocked

But people concluded that the Electro Voting System was hacked yet the MEC chairman denied their computer system being hacked. But he admitted that the electronic counting system had crashed (I wonder how and there is still no report to what had happened) , therefore they migrated to Plan B which was manual counting of the results.

The question now is what is the lawful process for dealing with these. It was believed also that the entire process was subject to corruption, including the buying of local election officials to interfere

in the transfer of results.

If this was the case, many people are held responsible for the mess because it was a whole process to

check and balances yet today we complain and point fingers on others. Where were the opposition party officials and security to defend.

Through the bad experience that has affected me personally and the entire nation of Malawi, I came up with proposition on how to deal with such events in future.

Recommendations :

  • Have a good system and a strict, well-trained and observed process. Biometrics can identify multiple applicants or voters
  • Avoiding suspicious ballots with marks apparently made repeatedly by the same hand.
  • Avoiding ballots that pile within the box and the number of ballots in the box which exceeds the number of ballots issued
  • Avoiding altered tally sheets in presence of the team and concerned parties
  • Tabulations should be done separately by multiple officers, neither knowing who the other is.
  • Good training of staff atleast two years before elections
  • Public information should state that fraud will be detected and those responsible punished.
  • Allow Political parties to have minimum two or more agents at each station to avoid being bought off.
  • Provide complaint forms which agents can fill to challenge the process.
  • Let polling station chairperson sign, announce and post results in the polling station entrance for transparency, public audit and future references.
  • Set up tracking mechanisms to reconcile forms from stations and final national tally figures.
  • Ballot boxes must be tracked during transporting from one point to another.
  • Make sure that ballot papers have security features and serial numbers.
  • Vote counting must be done at the same place of voting, immediately after voting.
  • The tally sheet must be signed by all stakeholders and political party delegates must each have a copy of the election outcome.
  • Security must be present at all times in polling stations.
  • Only audit Results before declaration.
  • Empower the public to watch the process, by providing guidance and encouraging voters to photo polling station results and send those to a central location for aggregation.
  • Setting up private parallel vote tabulations to cross check results from MEC.
  • All political parties contesting should employ those who have a high regard for the rules of the election. Not greedy and amateurs, but well organized to observe the electoral environment and to respond appropriately to breeches of the electoral code of conduct.
  • An Organized Civil Society that acts independently like PAC etc, but in partnership with all party representatives and observers.

Note: Above all there is need for quick electro reforms in order to avoid panic to implement any system seem to be effective. And I would recommend the Majority electoral Systems that require candidates to score 50%+1 in order to secure the seat. Other wise there must be a re-run if none of the candidates reach the desired score.

Lastly, I would like to especially express my appreciation to all citizens of Malawi for calm hearts and mind towards any Nation hurtful Issue, only in time it will reap your rewards and those of us who took things for granted are already severely punished by God and those who have repentant heart are forgiven.

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