e-Collation e-Voting INEC Nigeria Online Services Opinion

Why INEC Server Results (e-Collation) cannot be seen as valid

Because the end of the 2019 presidential election there has been loads of chatter about INEC Server outcomes, the backup of voting results that INEC had earlier planned to transmit to a central server.

Hassle began when the marketing campaign office of the main opposition candidate alleged that they’ve documents they believed include the electronically transmitted results of the 2019 presidential election. In fact, INEC have since denied the document.

Nevertheless, you in all probability know all this by now and should you don’t Google is your good friend as plenty of media organizations have extensively coated that angle.

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The purpose of this article is to point out why whatever was allegedly transmitted by INEC presiding officers through the election cannot be validly regarded as the results of the 2019 presidential election having failed to satisfy the minimal requirements for authentication and validation.

The truth is, I’ll even go as far as saying that even if the digital transmission and e-collation of outcomes have been included within the electoral act the end result in the server would still not have stood as there would still be a whole lot of grounds to problem its validity.

Since, no one is aware of exactly how the digital transmission of results work, I will start by describing how I consider INEC end result transmission works.

My description will be based mostly on testimonies I learn from on-line media accounts of people that declare to have worked as INEC officers through the election. I consider that in due time INEC should present an official description of the entire course of.

My description is necessary because, I consider it’s essential to know the premise upon which I’m dismissing the whole electronically transmitted results. It additionally follows that if those premises are inaccurate, my conclusions may even be invalid.

After supplying you with my description of how I consider the process works, I will then present the loopholes in the course of that puts to question the validity of the complete end result.

For every loophole, I’ll make recommendations on how the method can be upgraded for a more reliable end result. I will be doing this as a result of, the purpose of this text isn’t just to point out why the electronically transmitted result is unreliable, but to additionally show how it can be made higher for future elections most especially the 2023 presidential election.

Think about a world where the electronically transmitted end result can stand by itself with out recourse to the manually collated results.

Imagine a world the place to prove you gained the presidential election (or some other elective workplace) you do not want to undergo the rigours of manually inspecting poll papers or outcome varieties.

All it’s essential to do is to get a replica of INEC’s database of the outcomes by way of a courtroom order and you’ll have all you must make your case.

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Nevertheless, for this to be potential INEC has to create an airtight knowledge validation and authentication course of that ensures that the info that results in the database on the INEC server is identical as the outcomes on the shape EC8A outcome sheet signed by celebration brokers at the polling models.

This for my part shouldn’t be potential proper now due to lapses in the present protocol.

Transparency – The Lacking Ingredient in the Electronic Transmission (E-Collation)

Nobody is aware of for positive how INEC’s digital transmission of voting results work. The truth is, many citizens never heard anything about digital transmission of outcomes till the alleged INEC server results surfaced. This lack of transparency is an issue.

There is a cause why voters trust the guide process. Everyone knows the way it works.

We queue up at our polling unit, select our most popular candidate on the poll by thumb printing beside the brand of the candidate’s celebration. The votes are counted and entered into the outcome sheet and validated by get together agents with their signatures.

Results of ward polling models are collated at the ward, ward results on the local authorities space, LGA outcomes on the state degree, and eventually the state outcomes are collated on the INEC workplace in Abuja to derive the result of the presidential election.

At each stage of collation, the end result sheet is signed by approved get together brokers for validation.

The transparency of the guide system signifies that everyone knows its limitation and every election cycle efforts are made to make the process extra credible.

Before electronically transmitted outcomes can rival the manually collated end result (or no less than stand on its own right), it should additionally match it in transparency.

When everyone knows the protocol used in the digital transmission process, we will easily determine lapses in the course of and make recommendations on tips on how to enhance the process. It’ll also improve public belief within the process.

How Electronic Transmission to INEC Server (E-Collation) Works

Only INEC is aware of precisely how e-collation works. What I’m describing right here is just my understanding of the way it works based mostly on what I’ve learn on-line.

I discovered this article by Premium Occasions very illuminating. I additionally learn dozens of tweets by people who claim they have been INEC adhoc employees in the course of the election describing how they transmitted or tried to transmit the results or variety of accredited voters.

Based mostly on these accounts, here is my understanding of how the INEC’s e-collation and digital transmission was imagined to work.

After voting, the poll is counted and entered in the type EC8A end result sheet.

The finished end result sheet is signed by social gathering brokers and the presiding officer for validation.

The presiding officer then opens the e-collation app on the sensible card reader (SCR) and inputs the outcomes as recorded in the duly signed type EC 8A outcome sheet into it and transmits it to the server. Whereas some presiding officers stated they transmitted simply the number of accredited voters, others stated they transmitted precise voting results.

From all accounts this transmission was accomplished over the general public internet, which suggests knowledge entry is required on the polling unit the place the transmission ought to occur.

It isn’t clear whether or not get together agents witnessed the getting into and transmission of the outcome within the SCR.

The transmitted result is then acquired on the INEC headquarters in Abuja the place it is entered right into a database in the INEC server.

It isn’t clear how the database of the result’s populated. While we’ve got heard rather a lot about how the result’s transmitted little or no, if any has been revealed about how the info is acquired and entered into the database.

My guess is that there are considered one of two methods this could occur. My most popular strategy is a state of affairs where the info is acquired and entered into the database mechanically without any intervention of an INEC official except in instances where knowledge sanitisation is required.

The second strategy (which I discourage utterly) is one where the outcomes are acquired in the type of messages or notifications on a display and an INEC official should enter the acquired knowledge manually into the database.

There you’ve got it, what I outlined above is my understanding of how e-collation works. In time, it’s going to be nice for INEC to be extra open about the way it works.

Now, that I’ve laid down how I feel the e-collection process works, the coast is now clear for me to disclose what I feel is flawed with this setup and why I consider it cannot be relied on as a true representation of the election end result.

The Drawback with INEC’s present setup and My Fixes

The primary drawback with the current INEC protocol is that you simply cannot guarantee for positive that the results transmitted, and the content of the database is identical as the scores recorded within the INEC type EC8A end result sheet.

I will break things down into three sections to make my level easier to understand. The first part will take a look at lapses on the polling unit end where the outcomes have been imagined to be transmitted.

The second part will think about how the results have been transmitted and eventually, the last part will look into the lapses on the reception and server finish.

The Polling Unit

That is probably the most crucial a part of the method as any error at this stage will keep on to later levels of the method.

The issue right here is the protocol for getting into and transmitting the info.

While INEC (and I assume the electoral act) required that the outcome entered into type EC8A outcome sheet be signed by celebration agents to verify that the process was above board and that the right scores where entered, INEC’s protocol for e-collation has this significant validation step missing.

This lack of validation creates an enormous drawback for the electronically transmitted end result. With out validation there isn’t any approach of being positive that the alleged transmitted outcome is identical as scores entered within the signed type EC 8A, except a one on one match is completed between every duly signed type EC8A and its transmitted copy on INEC’s server.

If Get together A obtained 50 votes in a polling unit and the presiding officer erroneously or deliberately enters 32 votes for the get together in the SCR for transmission, the present INEC protocol for digital transmission doesn’t appear to have any steps for verifying that the info being transmitted is correct.

It seems INEC saw e-collation as its personal pet venture (or an experiment) with the best way it dealt with the info. The best way presiding officers dealt with the info was even scandalous in some areas.

For example, within the Premium Occasions report I referenced earlier one of many presiding officers interviewed stated after several failed makes an attempt to transmit the outcome, as a consequence of poor network he had to pay an INEC technical help employees (RACTECH) within the native authorities space to help him transmit the end result.

This won’t sound so dangerous until you study that he left the cardboard reader with the officer and went residence after the tech employees promised to upload the info.

This seems like a security breach to me, because it signifies that this tech employees may very well be capable of alter scores previous to transmission, that is if he transmitted it in any respect as all the presiding officer acquired from the RAC TECH personnel was a promise to transmit, he was not truly capable of affirm whether the promise was stored.

In case you assume this was an isolated incidence, the presiding officer narrated this occasion with the private pronoun WE, which means he was not the one one which did this.

With quite a few stories of problem in transmission of results, it’s possible that this consequence was widespread through the presidential election.

Subsequently, given how recklessly knowledge was handled on the polling unit degree, it’ll be troublesome for the outcome from e-collation to carry up in courtroom given the quite a few lapses.

It’s because the question nonetheless remains with out an airtight knowledge validation procedure “How do you prove that the data transmitted is the same as the results entered in the signed form EC8A?”

Options:

INEC should improve the e-collation app to incorporate a function that permits celebration brokers to view and signal the figures entered by the presiding officer in the card reader prior to transmission.

This new system also needs to be designed in such a approach that any alteration of the entered results during signing (perhaps as a result of a celebration agent noticed an error) or after signing (perhaps as a result of an INEC official is trying to compromise the entries) will reset the whole knowledge validation and authentication course of and require a recent set of signatures from all social gathering brokers.

The authentication (signing) can be carried out utilizing fingerprint sensor or digital pens. INEC also can introduce one-time passwords to enable celebration brokers and presiding officer validate the end result.

I additionally consider that the National Meeting ought to amend the electoral act to insist that no matter knowledge INEC is storing, archiving, or backing-up in digital type should be signed for validation and authentication by celebration agents and presiding officers.

The purpose of a backup system is defeated in the event you cannot guarantee that the backup is identical as the original knowledge.

Another drawback that created room for knowledge manipulation in the electronic transmission process was that the current UX of the e-collation app seems to make use of synchronous communication which meant that the method required speedy response from the server. So, if it doesn’t get a direct response (it’ll often wait a couple of seconds in fact) from the server that the end result was acquired efficiently (perhaps due to poor network or server down), an error message is displayed, and the info should be resent.

This setup required that the presiding officer hold actively sending the info by urgent the ship button till they get a successful transmission suggestions.

This created an issue because as soon as it received late and the presiding officers were not capable of efficiently ship the end result they needed to handover the gear and bribe or beg some officials at RACTECH to help them proceed trying the end result transmission, which created a loophole for corruption of the election outcomes.

To unravel this drawback the UX needs to be upgraded to a one-time send course of (asynchronous communication) just like how E mail, Whatsapp and other messaging apps work. Whenever you send a message on Whatsapp, the app won’t require you to resend the message if it fails to ship it instantly. As an alternative it should retailer in local storage and hold resending routinely until it lastly succeeds.

This is the model I consider the e-collation app also needs to comply with. Once the presiding officer hits the ship button, the app will hold resending the info every jiffy inside a 24-hour period.

This ensures that even if the info isn’t despatched instantly as a consequence of poor network, the app will maintain making an attempt within the background without any additional human input until it finds a great network connection.

Extra Suggestions

Based mostly on all I have read up to now about INEC’s e-collation, it isn’t clear what meta knowledge is transmitted together with the election outcomes. A lot of the focus has been on the primary outcomes like score of every get together, variety of accredited voters, and so forth.

I consider that if the vision is to make the electronically transmitted end result as unbiased as attainable of the manually collated outcome, meta knowledge also needs to be transmitted.

Meta knowledge is knowledge that permits you make sense of the primary knowledge. Meta knowledge that I feel should be transmitted along with most important election knowledge embrace:

  • Political Events that electronically signed the end result on the polling unit
  • Date and time the ship button was pressed
  • Date and time the transmission was acquired (this can be included on the server finish)
  • System ID (of the card reader)
  • Polling unit ID (Unit, Ward, LGA, State)
  • and extra as INEC, legislators, political parties, and civil society groups deem match

This can make sure that for any given transmitted polling unit end result, one can see a lot more info that may allow them make sense of it.

It also signifies that a presidential candidate difficult the outcomes of an election, won’t have to be analyzing all ballot papers and type EC8As. All they may need is a courtroom order to allow them to get a dump of the end result database.

The candidate’s workforce can then use artificial intelligence or some other form of analytics software to comb by means of the info, to scan for patterns that point to malpractice.

For instance, some patterns they will verify for embrace:

  • Polling unit results that were not digitally signed by their get together brokers
  • Polling models the place election results have been transmitted after a suspiciously very long time after shut of voting (say days or after any benchmark set by INEC or political events for the election)
  • Polling models where election outcomes have been transmitted earlier than the date of the election (say the day before today) or the place election outcomes where transmitted before the INEC recommended close of voting in line with its tips for the election)
  • Results transmitted by units with suspicious or unknown gadget IDs
  • Instances of a number of transmissions from a single system (utilizing the Gadget ID as reference)

It will allow the candidate’s group to focus their efforts in the suitable course. Such patterns might even be capable of convince a decide that the candidate has enough grounds to get no matter judgement they are demanding from the courtroom.

Nevertheless, for all this to work the info should be authenticated on the polling unit degree. It will be sure that the validity of the info is straightforward to determine and will give the electronically transmitted end result the credibility to stand by itself.

Transmission

Transmission of election outcomes was an enormous drawback within the 2019 presidential election. Many presiding officers reported issues with connecting to the INEC server.

The entire knowledge validation and authentication course of will amount to nothing if presiding officers cannot reliably transmit knowledge to the server in good time.

In accordance with on-line media reviews, presiding officers used Wi-Fi over cellular networks for the transmission. The issue with this setup is that network coverage is poor in rural and remote areas.

Except in fact the sensible card reader also supports GSM networks (with 3G or 4G knowledge), one other drawback with this setup is that not every presiding officer will personal a smartphone able to creating a Wi-Fi hotspot.

This may be the rationale for the quite a few complaints about problem in transmitting outcomes. Perhaps they have been transmitting over the fallacious community.

Solutions:

INEC ought to use satellite tv for pc know-how to create Wi-Fi hotspots in areas with poor, sluggish, and unreliable knowledge coverage and to save lots of value cellular networks in areas with quick and reliable knowledge providers. The ward collation centres can be used as the centres for the Wi-Fi hotspots.

This ensures that while the presiding officers converge for ward collation, the sensible card reader will sense the Wi-Fi and mechanically transmit the polling unit knowledge, which have been entered, digitally signed (and the ship button pressed) on the polling unit.

It’s important that INEC protocol for e-collation insists that the ship button on the e-collation apps is pressed on the polling unit within the presence of social gathering brokers whether or not or not knowledge protection is out there on the polling unit. As soon as there is a ship as soon as system within the UX, this reduces the probabilities of outcome manipulation.

Dependable Wi-Fi hotspots at the ward collation centres will get rid of the hitches presiding officers face during transmission and enhance the reliability of the process.

A reliable transmission process will scale back pointless delays that may give room for manipulation and make sure that most presiding officers will successfully transmit. Each elements will ensure the accuracy and completeness of the info.

As a result of what good will e-collation be if only say 50% or less of the presiding officers have been capable of successfully transmit the outcome.

Reception (INEC Server)

While we’ve got heard quite a bit about INEC server, no one is aware of for positive the way it works. That is the sketchiest a part of INEC’s e-collation.

It isn’t clear how INEC meant to create the database of the 2019 presidential election.

Like I pointed out earlier there are two approaches INEC might have used. My most popular strategy is one the place the transmitted knowledge is saved routinely into the database.

This eliminates any human intervention which might lead to manipulation of results.

The second strategy is one the place the results are acquired in type of messages and INEC officers should bodily compile the database from the acquired messages.

This second strategy clearly creates room for manipulation. Subsequently, if INEC adopts this strategy, they need to embrace in the knowledge reception protocol one other spherical of validation and authentication where social gathering agents must affirm that whatever is being manually entered into the database is strictly what was acquired within the message.

For the remainder of this part I will assume that INEC used my most popular technique of automated knowledge entry.

If the info was stored mechanically it’s also essential that it is saved “as is” first earlier than being aggregated to get ward, LGA, and state outcomes.

Curiously, the INEC server end result being circulated by supporters of the opposition candidate exhibits a tabulation of outcomes by state fairly than by polling unit (as outcomes where transmitted solely at the polling unit degree by all accounts).

Having the outcome by polling unit would have made it simpler to determine the accuracy of the INEC server end in circulation. It will merely involve taking a pattern measurement (as little as 1000) of the polling unit results as recorded on the server and matching it with the end result recorded in the type EC8A outcome sheets for those polling models.

Since results have been transmitted on the polling unit degree it’ll be troublesome to use the mixture scores by state to make a case.

This is the reason before any guide or automated aggregation of acquired results to get ward results, LGA outcomes, and state results, the unique acquired results by polling unit should be saved “as is”.

One of the best UX is a hierarchically structured database where the result’s threaded. The first display (house display) will be the mixture rating by state, however a click on on any state provides a drill down by local authorities space, and a click on any LGA provides a drill down by ward.

Lastly, a click on any ward will increase the view to point out results by polling models in that exact ward. For sure that every end result ought to have its meta knowledge added.

In fact, the UX also needs to supply choices to view by polling models (for all polling models in Nigeria), view by ward (for all wards in Nigeria), and think about by LGA (for all local government areas in Nigeria).

Lastly, I will now tackle the primary purpose why I feel the outcome may be invalid on the reception and server finish.

Lack of transparency. What do I imply?

For instance, earlier than the first set of polling unit outcome hit the INEC server was there any occasion the place INEC verified (in the presence of social gathering brokers, civil society groups, and home and worldwide observers) that the database that may house the 2019 presidential election was empty.

Is it attainable that the INEC server outcome being paraded on social media might include legacy knowledge transmitted during testing and coaching as nicely as these transmitted in off-calendar state elections as INEC claims they examined e-collation in a few of those state elections?

With none affirmation of the vacancy of the database prior to the primary transmission it’s going to be troublesome to vouch the authenticity of the end result.

Even at the polling models on voting day one of many first issues a presiding officer does earlier than voting commences is to point out potential voters that the poll box is empty.

The transparent design of the current INEC poll bins additionally helps on this regard.

This transparency reassures voters, political events, election screens, and all different stakeholders that each one contestants have a degree enjoying subject and that the results counted at the finish of the process will be the same as what the accredited voters chose.

There was no document of this ever occurring at the INEC server degree.

Options:

INEC should have an occasion on election day where the database that may home the presidential election is verified for vacancy.

This should occur in good time before the close of polls (so it doesn’t intrude with end result transmission) and will happen within the presence of get together brokers and different stakeholders.

In fact, get together brokers of all politically events ought to signal that they have been present and may affirm the emptiness of the database.

To make this process straightforward to handle, INEC can hire an unbiased auditing firm (one with a superb status in fact) to verify and certify the emptiness of the database. The get together agents can then signal based mostly on the certification of the auditors.

Nevertheless, it isn’t solely emptiness of knowledge that should be verified.

Imagine a state of affairs the place there’s a bug within the INEC server whose solely job is to strip all political events of 20% to 50% of their votes and add the mixture of the stripped scores to at least one get together (in all probability the one that planted the bug).

Subsequently, INEC server or/and database shouldn’t just be certified for vacancy of knowledge however must additionally be licensed to be empty of bugs.

INEC should hire a reputable security agency to certify that its server and database are empty of bugs and based mostly on this certification get together agents can signal with their seal of approval.

This process will be sure that whatever we see in the database on the shut of transmission will certainly be a real reflection of the scores as transmitted at the polling models.

The shortage of transparency in INEC e-collation of the 2019 presidential election makes it exhausting to trust the method.

Should you assume transparency shouldn’t be an enormous deal the German constitutional courtroom dominated in 2009 that digital voting is unconstitutional if it isn’t transparent.

Hear the courtroom:

“that all essential steps of an election are subject to the possibility of public scrutiny unless other constitutional interests justify an exception . . . The use of voting machines which electronically record the voters’ votes and electronically ascertain the election result only meets the constitutional requirements if the essential steps of the voting and of the ascertainment of the result can be examined reliably and without any specialist knowledge of the subject . . . The very wide-reaching effect of possible errors of the voting machines or of deliberate electoral fraud make special precautions necessary in order to safeguard the principle of the public nature of elections.”

The courtroom additionally went on to say

“The legislature is not prevented from using electronic voting machines in elections if the possibility of a reliable examination of correctness, which is constitutionally prescribed, is safeguarded. A complementary examination by the voter, by the electoral bodies or the general public is possible for example with electronic voting machines in which the votes are recorded in another way beside electronic storage.”

See full judgement right here (use Google Translate in the event you can’t learn German)

So, to be clear the courtroom just isn’t towards digital voting, it is just saying the process must be open to public scrutiny and have a backup in case the digital process is compromised. It additionally says that the process must be simple for a mean individual to know.

INEC must make sure that going forward that the processes for e-collation is made transparent and even once we ultimately go for full blown electronic voting that the transparency will be sustained.

INEC and safety businesses like the DSS must recognise that the INEC server is a national safety infrastructure and make sure that satisfactory safety protocols are put in place to ensure its integrity.

Conclusion

There’s nonetheless plenty of confusion surrounding what was transmitted in the course of the elections. Whereas some say nothing was transmitted others say the whole end result have been transmitted. There are also another set of people that insist that simply the variety of accredited voters have been transmitted.

From on-line media accounts, some presiding officers attest to transmitting the whole outcomes while others claim they solely transmitted the number of accredited voters.

Nevertheless, no matter what was transmitted it is clear that INEC’s protocol was not clear and does not meet the minimum requirement for knowledge validation.

The truth that we’re guessing what precisely was transmitted is an indictment on the complete e-collation process.

For e-collation (and even electronic voting) to be valid everybody (Nigerian voters) must find out about it and the way it works weeks (and even months) before election day.

My solely curiosity here is to let everyone know that the problem with e-collation isn’t just concerning the president signing the electoral act.

When the updated act is ultimately signed INEC must also put in place an airtight protocol for knowledge validation and authentication. The protocol should be made public and recognized by all voters prior to the election.

Once we ultimately undertake e-collation and e-voting we must guarantee we get it proper.

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