INEC Explains A-Z About Electronic Card Readers
March 04, (THEWILL) – The Independent National Electoral Commission
(INEC) explains the A-Z about its voting card readers in this question
and answer statement below:
Question 1: Why use Card Readers?
the first time in Nigeria’s electoral history, electronic voter
authentication system, with the aid of smart card readers, is being
deployed for the 2015 general elections. Using Card Readers has enormous
advantages, which include:
Once configured, the Card Reader can
only read Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) issued by the Independent
National Electoral Commission (INEC). Any person that shows up at the
polling unit without a PVC or with a card not issued by INEC will not be
able to vote.
The Card Reader reads the embedded chip on the PVC,
not the barcode, and it shares a secret code with the PVC; thus it is
impossible to falsify the cards.
The Card Reader authenticates the
identity of the voter by cross-matching his/her fingerprints with that
stored on the embedded chip. No person can vote using another person’s
The Card reader keeps a tally of all cards read, comprising the
details of all voters verified as well as those not verified, and
transmits the collected information to a central INEC server via GSM
Information transmitted to the server will enable INEC
to audit results from polling units, as well as do a range of
statistical analysis of the demographics of voting.
officers will also be able to use information transmitted by the Card
Reader to audit polling unit result sheets and determine whether
accreditation figures have been altered.
Question 2: Is the usage of Card Readers for 2015 elections legal?
use of the Card Reader for the purpose of accreditation of voters is
one of the innovations introduced by the Commission to improve the
integrity of the electoral process. It does not violate the Electoral
Act 2010, as Amended, or the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic
of Nigeria, as Amended. It adds value to the process in line with the
yearnings of Nigerians for credible elections, and accords with
international best practices. Whereas the Electoral Act prohibits the
use of electronic voting, the Card Reader is not a voting machine and is
not used for voting. The Card Reader is used only for accreditation of
voters, and only accreditation (and not voting) data is transmitted by
Question 3: How does the Card Reader work?
Card Reader uses a highly secure cryptographic technology that is used
commonly in devices that need to perform secure transactions, such as
paying terminals. It has ultra-low power consumption, with a single core
frequency of 1.2GHz and an Android 4.2.2. Operating System. The INEC
staff operating the Card Reader will scan the PVC of each voter to
verify its genuiness before allowing the voter to get accredited. It
takes an average of 10 to 20 seconds to authenticate a voter.
Question 4: How long is the battery life of the Card Reader?
Card reader has a 3200mAh battery, which can lasts for about 12 hours
in continual usage when fully charged. The device hibernates when not in
use to save and lengthen the battery life.
Question 5: Who operates the Card Reader at the Polling Unit?
Assistant Presiding Officer (APO) at the polling unit has the
responsibility to operate the Card Reader. Poll officials that will
operate the Card Readers have received extensive hands-on training and
are well equipped to handle the task. The Commission has also
painstakingly outlined the operational procedures in its ‘Approved
Guidelines and Regulations for the Conduct of 2015 General Elections’.
Question 6: Have the Card Readers been tested ahead of the 2015 general elections?
Card Reader units have been broadly subjected to simulation Quality
Assurance, Integrity and Functionality tests and INEC has full
confidence in their performance for election purposes. The device has
also been subjected to Performance and Conformance Test, both locally
and in Texas, United States, laboratories by the Radio Frequency
Identification (RFID) Research Centre and found to be of the highest
quality grade. Besides all these, and with additional time resulting
from the rescheduling of the 2015 general elections, the Commission has
directed that Stress Test be conducted on the Card Reader device in mock
election scenarios – two states in each of the six geo-political zones –
ahead of the new election dates. (Details of this exercise will be
unveiled by the Commission next week.)
Question 7: Can the Card Reader fail to function?
by the results of tests already conducted, it is highly unlikely that
the Card Reader will fail on Election Day. Still, INEC has drawn up
serial intervention plans in the unlikely event of the Card Readers
(i) Should there be a challenge with battery
power for the device, the Commission has procured more than 35,000
back-up batteries that can be rapidly deployed.
the device itself fails in the course of accreditation, the Commission
has procured more than 26,000 spares that can be rapidly deployed in
replacement within the scheduled accreditation hours of 8a.m. –
1p.m.Whatever time is lost on these scheduled hours in the course of
replacement will be added and accreditation extended beyond 1p.m. to
compensate for the lost time.
(iii) In the extremely
unlikely and isolated event that a faulty Card Reader can’t be replaced
within the scheduled accreditation hours, INEC has come to a firm
agreement with political parties that the exercise be repeated the
following day rather than revert to manual accreditation.
procedures, which registered political parties have agreed to, have been
written into the ‘Approved Guidelines and Regulations for the Conduct
of 2015 General Elections’.
Question 8: What if the Card Reader verifies a voter’s PVC but his/her fingerprints cannot be authenticated?
Commission has come to an agreement with registered political parties
on what to do: namely that if a voter’s PVC has been read and it is
evident that he/she is the legitimate holder of the card, but the
fingerprints cannot be authenticated (or he/she doesn’t have fingers),
the Presiding Officer of the voting point will complete an incident form
and the voter will be accredited to vote. Party Agents and Observers
would be there to witness to this.
Question 9: Is it possible to
accredit all voters who turn out within the stipulated hours for
accreditation using the Card Reader?
Answer: The accreditation of
a voter, using the Card Reader, is estimated to last an average of 10
to 20 seconds per voter. Even if we double this time to 20 to 45 seconds
for planning purposes, and working on the basis of a maximum of 750
voters per voting point, and using a generous projection of 70% voter
turnout (the average being 54% from past elections), which equates to
525 voters, the card reader will need 6.5hours to process all the
voters. This is well within the operating time for the elections as well
as the battery life of the Card reader.
Question 10: How is the Card Reader programmed?
prevent fraudulent use, the Card Rader is configured to work only on
Election Days. In addition, the device is configured to specific polling
units and cannot be used elsewhere without requiring reconfiguration by
authorised INEC personnel.
Question 11: How has the INEC’s Card Reader addressed the problems experienced in other countries in the sub-region?
challenge with a few of the Card Reader devices in Ghana, for instance,
during the country’s 2012 general elections was the battery power,
apparently because the affected devices were not fully charged. It was
in learning from this experience that INEC designed the Card Readers to
be used in the 2015 elections with 12-hour battery life in active usage,
and also procured more than 35,000 units of back-up batteries. The
imperative of adequate charging of the Card Readers is underscored
during the trainings of election personnel.
technology failures during Kenya’s general elections in 2013 had nothing
to do with card readers, as the country used computer poll books for
accreditation. The challenge was rather with the electronic system used
in transmitting results, and not card readers.