6 February 2013

Kenya: IEBC Reveals How the Electronic Vote Transmission Will Work

Following the heavily contested results in the last general elections in 2007, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission is working to ensure that this year's elections will be free and fair.

They have come up with a plan that will guarantee that there is true transparency and quick delivery of poll results. Results from each polling station will be transmitted to three different tallying centres, using the Electronic Results Transmission (ERT) platform the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission has acquired.

The commission is partnering with global search engine Google and mobile phone providers to undertake the exercise on the election night, according to a presentation by the IEBC's directorate of ICT made recently. The results will start coming in as early as 6.30pm after the vote counting in the polling centres.

Kenyans are set to go to polls on March 4 to elect the president, governor, senator, MP, women representative and county assembly representative. The law requires that the candidate for president will be duly elected if s/he garners at least 51 per cent of the ballots cast and at least 25 per cent of the votes in 24 counties.

There are eight presidential candidates who have been cleared by the IEBC to contest the presidency, namely Prime Minister Raila Odinga of ODM, deputy PMs Uhuru Kenyatta and Musalia Mudavadi of TNA and UDF respectively, James ole Kiyiapi of Restore and Build Kenya, Narc Kenya's Martha Karua, KNC's Peter Kenneth and Mohammed Abduba Dida of Alliance for Real Change.

The IEBC has already published sample ballot papers ahead of the polls. Each of the six elective posts will have a ballot paper with distinct colour a move minimise confusion among voters and decrease the number of spoilt ballots.

According to notice published by IEBC last week, presidential ballot papers will be white and contain a passport photograph and name of the presidential candidate. The running mate on the other hand will only have his or her name on the ballot adjacent to the presidential candidate.

The ballot papers for governors will be blue, those of Senators will be yellow and green for MPs. Women representative ballot papers will be purple while county assembly Ward representative ballot papers will be beige. The voter will also be able to read the common instructions on the ballot papers on proper handling of the papers.

Once the voting closes, the ballots will be counted at each of the 33,000 polling centres. During their presentation, the commission's ICT team took the media through the ERT dry run that will transmit results to the three servers namely, national, county and constituency simultaneously.

The system allows for user confirmation once results have been sent and also provide validation for all values, including registered voters in each centre, ballots cast, spoilt and disputed ballots.

"The Results Transmission System is a key component of IEBC's wider Electronic Vote Transmission which consists of three components," the Commission said.

"The Electronic Vote Transmission system requires each polling centre reporting the provisional results of six elections to transmit these results to three different Tally Centers across the country."

Each polling centre will transmit the provisional results for each of the six positions - president, governor, senator, MP, women representative and county assembly representative - to the constituency, county and national tallying centres once the votes for are counted and certified by presiding officers.

The presiding officers will each use a mobile device to enter the data from those forms into a specially developed application.

"A mobile device will be used by each presiding officer to enter the data from those forms into a specially developed mobile phone application. This device will securely transmit these provisional results data over mobile data network to IEBC headquarters for consolidation and publication."

In areas where GSM phone reception is weak, the Commission will resort to satellite phones.

But whatever is transmitted on this platform will only be provisional that must be certified by official forms - like the famous Form 16A. "The transmission will provide the trends in voting patterns," the ICT department said.

The paper forms must then be transported to the relevant tally centre for official consolidation and reporting, IEBC said.

"On receipt of the paper forms at the relevant tally centre, and once approved by the returning officer there, the returning officer shall capture the final results on a web interface (Results Transmission System - RTS).

The RTS at the Tally Centre's will allow tabular and basic bar chart reporting of provisional and results data, as well as other relevant management reports. IEBC is working closely with Google to provide a presentation gadget of results over the internet."

With the official paper forms and the mobile data, IEBC will then have both provisional and official results for comparison and certification.

The entire Electronic Vote Transmission (ERT) project involves the IEBC, the transmission software developers and the mobile services providers.

"The service providers provide a virtual private network within the existing GSM/GPRS/3G network and configured on the mobile phones SIM cards. The process involves the configuration of mobile phones and computers which are the main equipment used for transmission with the software and interconnecting them with the service providers VPN for all the 290 constituencies and 47 counties."

The system, the Commission said, provides secure authentication of users on the mobile device as well as enable the commission to automatically acquire the names of nominated candidates for each race.

The Commission has also assured the public that its systems would handle high volume of traffic on the election day.

IEBC has already begun sprucing the Bomas of Kenya which will be the national tallying centre and is also setting a media centre. The media will be able to receive live feeds from the commission. Mobile phone provider Safaricom is in the process of erecting a booster at the national tallying centre to facilitate both voice and data transmission.

"At the tally centers, display screens will be provided to show results as they trickle down from the polling centers. The public will be able to access results online via the IEBC website at vote.iebc.or.ke. Private developers, media houses interested in analysis of the results shall be able to access results data via the IEBC API (application programming interface) on api.iebc.or.ke where they can extract the data for their own independent analysis."

The information so provided will indicate the position that is being contested, totals per candidate, votes disputed, rejected ballots, the spoilt ballots and the rejections objected to votes.

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