Edo/Ondo: INEC tinkers with card verification, drops viewing portal

The Independent National Electoral commission might have concluded arrangements to allow those who cannot be verified by its Smart Card Reader to vote in the Edo State governorship election holding on September 19.

Also, the deployment of the z-Pad to capture facial recognition and Iris scan, which enjoyed wide acclaim in the recent Nasarawa bye-election, has been discarded.

It was learnt on Tuesday that these were part of the outcome of the meeting of INEC commissioners on Thursday last week in Abuja.

A very reliable source told our correspondent that with the rejection of the z-Pad for verification where the Smart Card Reader has not been able to verify a voter, it would still be possible for the person to vote since he or she possesses a permanent voter card.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, explained that the staff of the commission had become worried that the use of the biometric Smart Card Reader to verify voters had been on the decline in elections held after 2015.

The source stated, “As a result, the operations officers pushed for and ensured that the commission agreed to complement the verification process by adding facial recognition and or Iris scan at polling units using a z-Pad tablet.

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“But at INEC’s meeting last week Thursday, the z-Pad procedure was thrown out, meaning it would not be used in the Edo election next week and the Ondo poll in October.

“The implication of this is that anybody with a PVC can vote without the rigour of authentication even if the Smart Card Reader is unable to match the bearer of the PVC with the data or biometrics since the commission may not deploy the z-Pad for the Edo and Ondo elections.

“During Prof. (Muhammadu) Jega’s tenure, INEC recorded about 60 per cent compliance results of the Smart Card Reader, especially in the 2015 elections. But under the present dispensation, the compliance level has not gone beyond 20 per cent and this is very worrisome.”

Another source of concern to the official is the reported plan of the commission to equally discard the use a public viewing portal by INEC to monitor the results of the elections as they are declared at polling booths as demonstrated in the Nasarawa bye-election.

The source added, “The polling units public results viewing portal was demonstrated during the Nasarawa bye-election, which was a very important feature to enhance election integrity. This was just three weeks ago.

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“There are fears, however, that this very useful tool, which made the Nasarawa election successful, may also be thrown out at INEC’s meeting on Thursday.”

Another source alleged that some politicians were allegedly picking Supervising Presiding Officers for the electoral umpire who would oversee the distribution of election materials, particularly ballot papers and election result sheets.

“This has a very serious consequence on the outcome of the elections as the SPOs will certainly do the dictates of those who facilitate their inclusion on the list,” he said.

The official added that these critical changes had a very high level of being adopted at Thursday’s meeting as almost all the commissioners want to be reappointed for a second term.

INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, said, “The commission is irrevocably committed to deepening the use of technology in the electoral process. This drive is a product of resolute commitment to transparency and openness and to reduce the human element and interference in the electoral process.

“This informed the introduction of the Nomination Portal, the media accreditation portal and the portal for domestic election observers.

 “The commission will continue to test run new and creative solutions aimed at improving the integrity of the electoral process. The commission carried out a test run of the Z-pad solution for secondary accreditation during the Nasarawa Central State Constituency election.

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“In addition to the finger print solution the Z-pad captures the facials. However, the commission observed challenges with the Z-Pad and has gone back to the drawing board to make it more robust. We are therefore testing and correcting some of the challenges noticed with the z-pad during the test run in Nasarawa Central State Constituency Election.

“The commission has not eliminated the Z-pad as a means of secondary authentication, we are only perfecting it. The Z-pad will be used in Edo and Ondo states for the uploading of polling unit results (Form EC8A) to the INEC Results Viewing Portal. The commission will not relent in its efforts at deepening the use of technology in the electoral process.

“We will continue to use small bye elections to test run new technologies and innovations and deploy them to big elections when we are certain of their performance. The commission will not gamble with a big election and will not deploy technology solutions that are not robust and have not been adequately tested.”

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