February 24, 2024

Why iREV suffered glitches during 2023 Presidential election result upload — INEC

2023 Presidential polls

*Says, glitch didn’t alter election results, won’t happen in future elections

The Independent National Electoral Commission INEC on Friday released its report on the 2023 general election, explaining the technical glitch experienced with its Results Viewing Portal iREV during the presidential election results upload.

According to the commission, while the glitch did not affect the fidelity of the presidential election result, it has however taken measures to guard against a re-occurrence in future elections. INEC National Commissioner in charge of Information and Voter Education Committee, Sam Olumekun said the comprehensive 526-page document, “showcases the election’s unparalleled diversity in party representation, demonstrating significant democratic progress.

The report noted that the challenge of uploading the Polling Units presidential election results on the IReV after the presidential and NASS elections on 25th February 2023 was unique.

“As voting ended across the country and POs began the process of uploading the images of the PU result sheets of the elections for the various constituencies around 4:00pm, the Commission began to receive reports that attempts to upload presidential election result sheets was failing”, the commission said in the report.

It added that in the troubleshooting process, it was established that there was no issue in uploading the PU result sheets of the Senate and House of Representatives elections through the Election Result Modules. However, there was a problem with uploading the presidential election results to the system, as attempts to upload the results were generating internal server errors, which refer to a significant impairment that usually originate from within an application due to problems relating to configuration, permissions, or failure to create or access application resources correctly. The report added that;
“Further interrogation of the Election Result Modules indicated that the system is encountering an unexpected configuration problem in mapping the presidential election results uploaded into the system to the participating Polling Units.

“Due to the complex, sensitive and critical nature of the systems and the real potential for malicious cyber attacks, the Commission immediately put in place several strict security and audit control measures to prevent any unfettered or elevated access to the Result Upload System.

“In the process of resolving the challenge, it was discovered that the backend system of the IReV was able to query and detect the base States for uploading the PU result sheets based on the mapping of all Senatorial District and Federal Constituency elections to the respective 36 States of the Federation and the FCT as established in the database structure deployed within the system.

“In configuring and mapping the election results for the presidential and NASS elections, the Commission created 470 election types consisting of one presidential constituency covering the entire country, 109 Senatorial Districts and 360 Federal Constituencies. Each Senatorial District and Federal Constituency election on the database was mapped to their respective States. However, the presidential election result is a single, countrywide constituency and therefore, does not belong to any one State.

“Having identified and established the source of the problem, the Commission quickly created and deployed ‘Hotfixes’ which are software updates for fixing a bug or any vulnerabilities in a system. The deployed hotfixes eventually resolved the HTTP error on the system and the first presidential election result sheet was successfully uploaded at 8.55pm on the 25th of February 2023.

“After the problem with the upload was resolved, the Commission noticed a high volume of uploads on the queue. All results that scanned but could not be uploaded due to the error were queued waiting to be automatically processed. Due to the large volume and high traffic from the queue, the system was running slower, even though it tried to scale up automatically to handle the unanticipated heavy traffic. The density of the traffic that slowed the uploads was one issue. Another was that the offline queue requires the BVAS devices to be switched-on and connected to the internet for the upload.

“However, some of the Presiding Officers POs had at the time left their PUs, and the devices had either been switched-off, or were out of internet coverage. Switched-off devices could not connect and upload the results sheets.

The Commission had to reach out to the POs of affected areas to switch-on their systems and ensure internet connectivity for the uploads to continue. This accounted for the delay, with some of the results coming in the next day.

“By and large, the glitch experienced in uploading the scanned images of PU presidential election result sheets on 25th February 2023 was due to the inherent complexity within the System, which was difficult to anticipate and mitigate”.