By Festus Okoye
Some of the INEC staff had some experience in handling the OMR registration and the existing database compiled in 2002 and 2003 were compiled based on OMR forms.
Fortunately or unfortunately, the Electoral Management Body settled for the more modern technology of Direct Data Capture. The Direct Data Capture was projected to provide high processing speed to access and gather data. With its higher biometric data, a better list was expected with less human error.
Unfortunately again, the equipment used for the registration arrived in batches thereby making uniform registration difficult. The lack of stable power supply made it difficult to charge the batteries and registrants had to hire generators to power the equipment. The vendors also did not make adequate arrangements for after sale maintenance of the equipment and this made it difficult to proceed with registration on equipment malfunction.
The challenge for the 2011 election revolves on how to get voters register that will command some respectability and used in the conduct of elections that will have the semblance of fairness and transparency. The conduct of fresh votersâ€™ registration at this point in time will be time consuming and will involve enormous costs. With elections around the corner, some desperate politicians may hijack the exercise and still corrupt and compromise the integrity of the register.
My proposal and preference is a carefully mapped out program of updating and cleaning up of the existing voters register.
The register has a lot of challenges but with targeted sensitization program and vigilance on the part of civil society groups, it may be possible to register those that have attained the voting age and correct mistakes in the data of those already registered. It may also be possible to re-adjust the register and break them up into manageable proportions of 500 persons per polling unit.
At the conclusion of the 2011 elections, the Electoral Management Body can then decide to conduct a completely fresh registration of voters using whatever technology is agreed upon. But in all these, the independence and impartiality of the leadership of the Electoral Management Body is crucial.