Thursday, August 18, 2022

Kenya shuns past, holds first peaceful vote in years

International election observers heaved a sigh of relief as the Kenyan elections came to a close without violence in a stark departure from past polls that had been pockmarked by killings.

“On election day, voters exercised their right to vote in a general peaceful manner throughout the day,” lauded Ivan Stefance, head of the EU observation mission.

In a statement, Bruce Golding, former Prime Minister of Jamaica and the current chairman the Commonwealth Observer Group commended the people of Kenya for the “peaceful and orderly manner in which they exercised their right to vote on 9 August 2022.

“It is our hope that by bringing this electoral process to a successful conclusion, Kenya will serve as an inspiration for the Commonwealth and indeed, the rest of the world, that relevant lessons have been learned from the past, and that each successive election is an improvement on the previous one,” Golding said.

Although the matter is more nuanced, many observers are already singling out this year’s successful implementation of technology as a significant factor in keeping violence at bay.

“The mission commends the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) for the successful use of technology for voter registration voter identification and transmission of results. It has improved efficiency and increased the transparency for the election process in Kenya. At least those of us who were here in the last election can attest to that,” said Jakaya Kikwete, Head of the East African Community Observation Mission, and former President of Tanzania.

Dr. Ernest Bai Koromo, former president of the Republic of Sierra Leone noted the improvement in the overall voting exercise across the country. “Polling stations opened on time, voters were identified easily by digital kits and no major security incident was reported," he said.

“As a result of these changes to the Results Transmission System (RTS), the provisional presidential election results were publicly accessible on the IEBC portal. The Mission welcomes introducing these transparency measures to improve the integrity of the electoral process,” Koromo added.

The IEBC earned plaudits from the Commonwealth Observer Group for learning from past lessons, saying that “the Group notes that the IEBC applied a lessons-learned approach from the 2017 elections and adopted new software and hardware through the requisition of the KIEMS kit from a company called Smartmatic. It was noted that the IEBC undertook two simulation exercises of the KIEMS kits for the electronic transmission of results, the second of which our Advance Team was able to observe. We acknowledge these efforts, as the transparency they displayed contributed to building confidence in this key feature of the electoral process.”

The Kenyan election saw Deputy President William Samoei Ruto, 55, winning narrowly with 50.49 percent of the votes over his rival Raila Odinga, 77, who took 48.85 percent. Although Odinga is contesting his loss, political observers largely believe the election results to be credible.

Election watchdog ELOG (Elections Observation Group), a federation of more than a dozen NGOs, said that its parallel vote tabulation (PVT) estimates were consistent with IEBC’s official results.

“In light of our assessment of the Election Day processes and given that IEBC figures fall within the projected ranges, the PVT projections, therefore, corroborate the official results,” said the group’s chairperson Anne Ireri.

Kenyan citizens and election observers had been on tenterhooks during the lead up to the elections over fears that this year’s exercise would be a repeat of the bloody elections in 2007 where 1,200 people were killed and in the 2017 violence which left 24 people dead across the nation.

Monday, August 1, 2022

E-voting wins big among Philippine voters; earns praise worldwide

Nine out of ten Filipino voters prefer future elections to be automated, according to a new Pulse Asia survey.

The findings are part of the result of the survey commissioned by brain trust Stratbase ADR in the wake of the country’s general elections in May.

Since the country had starting using e-voting in 2010, approval for elections had sharply risen, from 30% in the last manual election to 82% in the most recent automated election.

Aside from 90% of voters finding the elections credible and trustworthy, the survey also revealed that 95% of the 1,200 respondents’ voters found the vote counting machines (VCMs) easy to use.

The polling firm observed widespread acceptance of the automated election system notwithstanding isolated reports of some voters waiting in line for hours in the stifling heat.

"We find here that nine out of 10 Filipinos are satisfied with the vote counting machines, significantly higher in [the] Mindanao [region], [where] you have 99% expressing satisfaction with the vote counting machines," Pulse Asia President Ronnie Holmes said in a forum.

The survey showed that two-thirds of Filipino adults believe that the 2022 elections are "more credible now" compared to the presidential polls in 2016, while 18% said these were "as credible as before." Only 6% said the election results were less credible this year.

The survey findings are consistent with the results of the mandatory Random Manual Audit where the electronic results registered a 99.95% match with manual count of ballots from 746 randomly selected precincts.

The elections also earned plaudits from the international circles.

Ned Price, US State Department Spokesman said that “the casting and counting of votes were conducted in line with international standards and without significant incident.”

The head of the observation mission from the Carter Center, Peter Wardle, noted that the elections were well-run, saying that “We found in our analysis of the election process that there were no significant gaps in the process and in particular, to pick up the theme of trust, we were impressed by the fact that in the Philippines, there are a number of mechanisms which are running either alongside or as a check on the automated voting to help build trust in the process.

Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines Koshiwaka Kazuhiko cited the smooth conduct of the election.

“I was honored to have witnessed first-hand this incredible exercise of democracy. I look forward to working with the new administration in bringing Japan and Philippine ties to greater heights,” he said in a tweet.

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Presidential candidate in Brazil to seek own voting system audit

In the feverish run up to the Brazilian elections in October, President Jair Bolsonaro is seeking an audit of the voting system, a move that comes after the embattled leader had relentlessly questioned the credibility of the country’s voting systems.

“As allowed by electoral law, we will hire a company to do the audit,” Bolsonaro said.

“People want transparent elections in which the vote is effectively counted for their candidate.”

The president’s sweeping claims had been met with backlash, the most furious of which had come from Brazil’s Supreme Electoral Court judges who had flatly refuted Bolsonaro’s allegations and categorically declaring that Brazil’s electoral system is free of fraud.

Luis Barroso, president of Brazil’s Supreme Electoral Court, once fired back at Bolsonaro saying “threatening the realization of an election represents anti-democratic behavior. Polluting the public debate with disinformation, lies, hatred and conspiracy theories represents anti-democratic behavior.”

Surprisingly, Bolsonaro appears to have made a fatal misstep as a recent Genial/Quaest opinion survey shows that his bombastic attacks on the voting system is turning off moderate voters. Furthermore, despite the vitriol spewed against the voting system, trust of electronic voting machines among Brazilians has increased to 22% of the electorate from a low of 27% in September, the survey revealed.

More alarmingly for Bolsonaro, the poll also showed that voter support for him dipped after three months of gains against former Lula.

The survey indicated that if the elections were held in April, Lula would have won 46% of the votes against 29% for Bolsonaro. Lula is on track to reaching 50% of the votes and winning the election right in the first round, according to the survey. In case the contest goes to a second-round runoff, the survey said that Lula would defeat Bolsonaro by 54% versus 34%.

"Voters believe the president is wrong to confront the Supreme Court, to question the credibility of electronic voting machines," said survey director Felipe Nunes.

Moderate voters are the swing votes that could be key to winning the election because most supporters of Bolsonaro or Lula have already decided who they will vote for.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Filipinos buck pandemic, heat; hold successful elections


Despite the oppressive summer heat that peaked at 90°F and the lingering presence of Covid, voters turned out in record numbers as officials staged an efficient Philippine 2022 election with minimal disruptions.

The 2022 elections were accurate and fast. On election night, results were published with 85% of election returns electronically transmitted to canvassing centers. The process was the fastest yet in the country’s history, which international observer election watchdogs have deemed to be above-board.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said the May 9 elections were conducted according to international standards and without any major incident.

Turnout exceeded 53 million – or 80% of eligible voters – a substantial showing in a country that had been averaging a 76% turnout for the past two decades.

Despite the abundance of disinformation, Filipinos trust their election automation. According to two independent surveys, most Filipino voters trusted the results of the country’s 2019 elections (89%) and they are overwhelmingly satisfied with the automated election system (87%). Another survey revealed that 9 out of 10 Filipinos want all their future elections to be automated.

This is a trend that has held fast since the first automated elections in 2010 – and with good reason. The automated system has yielded accuracy above 99.9% since it was first introduced. Further, results are published just hours after the polls close, not weeks or months as it had been with manual elections.

While trust in the electoral process and turnout are seeing a decline in most parts of the world, Filipinos are finding a good reason to be proud of their election.