AN ENHANCED WEB-BASED ELECTRONIC VOTING SYSTEM – Complete Project Material


CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1       Background to the Study

Conducting a
credible election in Nigeria is increasingly becoming a very difficult task,
and this has adversely affected the socio-political and economic well-being of
the nation and its citizenry.  Encyclopedia
Britannica defined an election as a formal decision-making process by which a population chooses an individual to hold public office. Elections have been the usual
mechanism by which modern representative
democracy
 has operated since the 17th century. Elections may fill offices in the legislature,
sometimes in the executive and judiciary, and for regional and local government. This
process is also used in many other private and business organizations, from
clubs to voluntary associations and corporations.

According to Ginsberg (2007), Election is the procedure that allows
members of an organization or  community
to choose representatives who will hold positions of authority within it. The
most important elections select the leaders of local, state, and national
governments. The chance to decide who will govern at these levels, serves as an
opportunity for the public to make choices about the policies, programs, and
future directions of government action. Election is a critical component of any
democratic society. As such, Nigeria returned to democratic rule and engagement
with the democratic process led to the conduct of its general elections in
1999, 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015. General elections are elections conducted in
the federation at large for federal and state elective positions.

Election is said
to be credible when the outcome of such election is acceptable to generality of
the people especially if the loser demonstrates the spirit of sportsmanship
occasioned by the electoral process transparency. Free, fair and credible
elections are central to electoral democracy and provide vital means of
empowering citizens to hold their leaders accountable. In a multi-party
democracy, it behoves both the elected and appointed government officials at
all levels of the political system to render periodic account of their
stewardship to the populace. However, accountability of public officials in
Nigeria has been undermined by the fact that elections in  the country are perennially fraught with
irregularities. The democratization of politics has been unsuccessful in
arresting electoral frauds perpetrated by different political parties and
megalomaniac politicians. According to Nnoli (2003), “elections are so clearly
tied to the growth and development of representative democratic government that
they are now generally held to be the single most important indicator of the
presence or absence of such government”. They are meaningfully democratic if
they are free, fair, participatory, credible, competitive and legitimate.

1.1.1    Elections in Nigeria: 1999-2007

The history of democratic elections in Nigeria especially
ones that would be adjudged and accepted by the electorates as free and fair
had always been a problem in the country. The 1999, 2003 and 2007 general
elections, three elections conducted during this period of ten years of
Nigeria’s democracy have been lampooned by many critics as far from free and
fair (Ahmed 2015). At inception of the Fourth Republic, the
1999 elections were conducted under military rule. There were fundamental flaws
in the elections, but Nigerians wanted to get rid of military rule and have
power transferred to civilians. They tolerated and accommodated the outcome,
and hoped for future improvements. The 2003 elections, unfortunately, did not
represent a substantive improvement over the 1999 elections, in terms of
transparency and credibility. Rather, the elections at best represented
“business as usual”, in terms of inflation of votes, fraudulent declaration of
results, use of armed thugs to scare away or assault voters and cart away
election materials and many other irregularities and illegalities, which were
committed with impunity (Jega 2015) . The
election of April 2007, conducted by the existing electoral body, Independent
National Electoral Commission (INEC) under the leadership of Maurice Iwu has
been described as the worst election ever held in this country as a result of
indescribable irregularities which marred the elections (Ahmed 2015)

The
election itself was characterized by all manner of malpractices many of which
reflected both the inefficiency and fraudulent complicity of INEC. A few
examples shall suffice, late display of electoral register in violation of the
Electoral Act, Omission of names of registered voters from the list, Muddling
up of names of registered voters as voter’s names appeared in the wards other
than the one they were expected to vote, Lack of transparency in the choice of
returning officers (allegedly chosen by the ruling PDP) None or late supply of
election materials, Announcement of results figures in contradiction to the
number of registered voters or the number that actually voted. Many of the
results were in favour of the ruling Party PDP. Refusal to furnish opposition
parties or candidates result sheets and other documents that will enable them
challenge their defeat in at the electoral tribunal. These malpractices were
repeated with extra expertise and boldness in 2007. Partisanship and fraud
became an official policy of INEC. INEC officials acted with impunity thus
robbing it on the face of the helpless voters that they can do nothing. Results
were announced even where no voting took place at all, in many pooling boots
result sheets were deliberately not supplied. Hotels and private houses were
used for thumb printing to the glare knowledge of security operatives who even
aided many of the frauds Obianyo and Emesibe (2015). All the previous elections from 1999 till 2011 were all
manually done but that of 2015 embraced some elements of ICT in action

1.1.2    the
2011 General Election

The process started with
the re –registration of voters exercise, and the introduction of the direct
data capture (DDC) machine for capturing finger prints of would be voters,
among other measures put together by INEC. In all, INEC’s conduct of the 2011
April election by far surpassed their previous efforts as also confirmed by the
various election observers that monitored the elections.

Challenges/Limitations

The
2011 general elections in Nigeria despite being applauded had some shortcomings
observed before, during and after the conduct of the election. There were still
cases of ballot box snatching in spite of the open/secret system of voting.
There were also rampant cases of underage registration and voting. The Adhoc
INEC officials who resisted the pressure to register minors and allow them vote
were threatened and harassed into submission. It is amazing to have heard cases
of multiple thumb-printing despite the availability of Direct Data capture
machines that were used to register prospective voters electronically. Another
sympathetic and traumatic aspect of the elections is the post- election
violence experienced in some Northern States. According to Nigerian’s Civil
Right Congress, more than five hundred were killed in the post- election
violence. The most painful part of the scenario was the attack and killing of
youth corps members as a result of post electoral violence.

1.1.3    The 2015 General Election in Nigeria

The 2015 general election
in Nigeria saw the introduction of the permanent voter’s card (PVC) as well as
the smart card reader to authenticate the number of accredited voters during
the election. The introduction of technological driven voter authentication
shaped the elections and gave it public acceptance.  INEC’s greatest achievement was the
production and distribution of high tech permanent voters card (PVC) with
biometric data capable of serving the system for a long time and thus puts to
rest the onerous task of always embarking on new registration exercise during
tenure of a new INEC chief executive. This achievement does not in any way
preclude the usual exercise of updating the register. Apart from saving the
nation the high cost of constantly embarking on new registration exercise, the
PVC and associated Card Reader(CR) infused a lot of credibility to the voting
process given the malfeasance associated with the voting process in previous
elections especially that of 2003 and 2007.

1.1.4 Smart Card Readers

The smart card reader is
a technological device setup to authenticate and verify on election day a
Permanent Voter Card (PVC) issued by INEC. The device uses a cryptographic
technology that has ultra-low power consumption, with a single core frequency
of 1.2GHz and an Android 4.2.2. Operating System (IDEA, 2011). . The INEC card reader is a portable
electronic voter authentication device, configured to only read the Permanent
Voter Cards issued by INEC.
The card reader was designed specifically for the accreditation process,
authentication of eligible voters before voting. The machine was configured to
only read the PVCs of a particular polling unit and can only work on election
day. The card reader uses a highly secure and cryptographic technology that is
used commonly in devices that need to perform secure transactions,
such as paying terminals. The device is positioned by its operator (usually a
trained INEC official) to read the embedded chip on the PVC, this procedure
display the information of the voter, followed by fingerprinting. It usually
takes about 10 to 20 seconds to validate a voter. The card reader has the
ability to perform the above described functions as well as keeping a tally of
the total numbers of voters accredited at the polling unit and forwarding the
information to a central database server over a Global System for Mobile (GSM)
network (Engineering Network Team, 2015).

Figure 1.0: INEC Card Reader (Source:
Blank News Online, 2015)

Concerned about the massive electoral fraud witnessed
in the past general elections in Nigeria, INEC deployment of the card reader in
2015 general elections was to ensure a credible, transparent, free and fair election
in order to deepen Nigeria’s electoral democracy. However, the use of this
electronic device in the 2015 general elections generated debate among
stakeholders before, during and after the elections .Okonji, (2015) writes that
despite the confidence of INEC in the use of card reader in the 2015 general
elections, the machines came with some challenges, even though the elections
have been widely adjudged as being successful. For instance, during the March
28 Presidential and National Assembly elections across the country, the card
readers malfunctioned in several polling units, a situation that  polling units.

 The challenges
ranged from rejection of permanent voter’s card (PVC) by the card readers,
inability to capture the biometrics from finger tips, to irregular capturing
and fast battery drainage. INEC officials have to abandon their polling units
and took the card readers back to their office for proper configuration. In
order to salvage the situation, which was almost becoming frustrating, INEC ordered
the use of manual process for accreditation, But before the order could go
round the states and local government areas, it was already late to conduct
accreditation and actual voting in some areas, a situation that forced INEC to
extend the exercise to the next day in all affected areas. Adegoke, (2015) on
his own opined that the use of card reading machine in Nigerian electoral
process has become a highly-contentious issue, especially amongst the political
class, such that Nigerians are asking if the card reading machine is a failure
or success. In essence, there is a sharp divide amongst the exponents and the
antagonists of this innovation. While the promoters strongly feel that card
reader is the best thing for the country—as such will, to an extent, minimize
electoral malpractices, boost the image of the country amongst the comity of
nations and give Nigeria a credible election. The antagonists, however, feel,
amongst other things, that Nigeria has not yet mature for such innovation. On
its own, the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) argued that in as much as
they are not afraid of its usage, INEC must ensure that no Nigerian voter was
disenfranchised by the machine

1.1.5    Electronic
Voting:
Electronic
voting (also known as e-voting) is voting using electronic means to record or
count votes. . With the rapid expansion of the Internet, electronic
voting appears to be a less expensive alternative to the conventional paper
voting. Electronic voting overcomes the problem of geographic distribution of
the voters as well as vote administrators. It also reduces the chances of
errors in the voting process. Electronic voting
technology can speed the counting of ballots, reduce the cost of paying staff
to count votes manually and can provide improved accessibility for disabled
voters. This system ensures that people can get official election
results within hours, instead of days or even weeks. Forward-thinking countries and election commissions are keen to explore
how it can help them improve their elections. For some nations, automated
elections mean that people can trust the results because it allows for a
process that is so auditable, transparent and secure. Of course, electronic
voting also helps reduce human error. For other countries, particularly large
ones like Brazil, India, Nigeria and the Philippines, electronic voting and
electronic counting means that people can get official election results within
hours, instead of weeks. Again, this builds trust of the electorates in
the electoral process. In an election, it is vitally important that everyone
who is eligible to participate in elections can do so, meaning that it’s easier
for even disable people to vote independently. Given the high penetration of
mobile devices in the world today, one potential way to address the challenges
of electoral malpractices is to connect government electoral resources with mobile
devices to enable a wider participation of citizens in the electoral process (Alabi
2011).

 Mobile devices have now become so embedded in
human life that people are utilising them to transact all kinds of business
activities. Citizens of many countries of the world are beginning to believe
that one way to enforce openness, transparency, and accountability in their
government’s electoral processes is to draw on the power of technology to
conduct voting anywhere, anytime (Alvarez 
and Hall 2010).  Voting using
mobile devices, with the associated benefits of providing mobile convenience
and fostering mass participation in the electoral process, is increasingly
being demanded by citizens (McGrane 2013). Electronic voting (e-Voting) is one
of such areas where the impact of ICT is sought globally, particularly in the
developing nations of the world, to help ameliorate some of the problems
plaguing the electoral processes. Traditional voting systems were developed to
ensure strict compliance with the principles of democratic elections and
referendums.

1.1.6    The
Nigerian Electoral Process

The
electoral process includes the selection of candidates, the registration of
voters and the voting procedures. A secure electoral process is important in
the context of good government, human rights and poverty elimination. The need
for a secure electoral process cannot be over-emphasized as the absence of this
will not only bring about the possibility of abuse, but the process and the
result may be open to legal challenge. This could undermine the stability and
authority of a newly elected body or office.

1.2       Statement of the Problem

Elections
the world over are usually plagued with a myriad of challenges that do not make
the elections turn out hitch-free. Specifically in the last general elections
in Nigeria, some challenges were experienced with the introduction of a
semi-automated electoral system via the use of smart card readers in the
electoral process. The use of the card reader was associated with several
downsides which include breakdown, malfunction, issues with PVC authentication
and biometric data verification of the voters, inability of the card readers to
identify some finger/thumbprints.

This
study therefore aims at designing a web-based electoral system, with an online
voting solution that would by-pass the use of smart card readers in the
electoral process.

1.3 Objective of the Study

The main objective of this study is to design a
web-based electoral system with an online voting solution. The specific
objectives are to:

1.     
by-pass the use
of smart card readers with its attendant issues in Nigeria’s general elections;

2.     
eliminate
electoral violence and other challenges associated with manual voting methods
and

3.     
evaluate the
performance of the designed system.

1.4     Methodology

1. The literature review would include the
following:

Search of related literature on the electioneering
process from several journals found on Google scholar, IEEE and ACM digital
libraries

Classification of the literature into categories based
on the problems discussed.

Choice of the category with the problem of interest

Identification of the gap the study intends to fill

2. The
web-based electoral system would be built to consist of a user interface that
will used to put in user information into the system; a database that would
store for all the information gathered from voters and a counter that will run
on Java.

The
web-based electoral system would have its interface designed using the
following tools:

Microsoft Visual Studio 2013 Ultimate with inbuilt C#,
IIS, MsSQL, web Service, scripting and Styling support.

C# Programming Language

Microsoft SQL (MsSQL)

HTML

Client Scripting (jQuery/Angular)

Bootstrap CSS framework

Internet Information Systems (IIS) Server

The
system will utilize a web service or rather a RESTful (Representational State
Transfer) where C# will be used to code back end and the web service whereas
html, css, client-side scripting files will be used at the front end. The
Secure Hash Algorithm (SHA1) will be used to encrypt the passwords that will
enable voters exhibit their franchise.

 1.5      Significance of the Study

An
electronic voting is an electronic system that would allow voters to transmit
their secure and secret voted ballot to election officials over the internet.
The proposed system is convenient
because with the well-designed software and system, the voters can
simply use their own equipment with minimal time and skill to
complete the voting process. E-voting has been recognized as a tool for
advancing democracy, building trust in electoral management, adding credibility
to election results, and increasing the overall efficiency of the electoral
process. The proposed system has the potential to eliminate most common flaws
of traditional card reader system, eliminates election fraud, speed up vote
counting and election result processing, make voting more convenient for
citizens. Voters use mobile devices to vote anytime and anywhere using mobiles
smart device such as phones, ipad , tablets, etc. Using electronic voting
saves money from reducing the personnel expense for example, expense for
location management and administration fee. The whole electoral
process and result declaration is faster than the traditional card reader
system. By clicking just a small button, one can summit your voting to the
system, it is much faster than the traditional ballot counting method currently
in operation in Nigeria.

1.6       Scope of the Study

The study examined
the electioneering process in Nigeria and bring to light the perennial problems
that have hitherto prevented the process from being free, fair and credible.
The research would use Nigeria’s 2015 general elections as a case study to
investigate the real election situation and see how best this proposed system
can be used to nip the challenges facing the electioneering process in Nigeria
in the bud.


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