Author: Trevor Jenkins Johnson: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 31 March 2018:
The runoffs are underway. About time too. The country is simply fed up with all the shenanigans going on between the parties, the National Electoral Commission (NEC), the Sierra Leone Police (SLP), the Judiciary, but to name a few.
There are a whole bunch of issues I want to analyse here, including but not limited to the recent High Court ruling, Sam Sumana “endorsement” cliff-hanger, integrity of NEC and the 1st round elections, threats of a military coup and of course, the obligatory prediction of who will be our next President.
But I think it makes sense to talk about the security of Sierra Leone – post elections, that concerns me quite a bit. The country is seriously polarised at the moment, throw in the tribalistic rhetoric, sprinkle some regionalism into the mix and we have what appears to be a very volatile situation awaiting a tiny spark!
Rather than rehash analysis already out there, I am going to challenge several players in this runoff election to carry out some simple tasks that should serve the following:
1. Serve as a check on the integrity of NEC
2. Serve as a cross check on the integrity of the process at polling station level
3. Alleviate the fears of either party with regards to electioneering malpractices of the other
4. Quell the tension somewhat post elections
5. Force the losing party to walk away gracefully whilst doing the right thing and asking their supporters to accept defeat, unite and help move the country forward.
To both SLPP and the APC
1. Ensure at least one of your agents at each polling station has a smart phone
2. Instruct them to take a photo of the RRF form immediately after it has been signed by all parties concerned including the NEC official and both party polling agents
3. Ask polling agent to send photo to party command centre immediately
4. Each party to have a public website up and running by 5pm tomorrow for the sole purpose of uploading 11,122 RRF photos.
5. Each party to have in place 30 very bright university students at the ready sitting in front of 30 shiny laptops. By my calculations, 15 students can aggregate 11,122 RRF forms in Microsoft excel in less than 12 hours and have the data checked simultaneously by the other 15.
Some assumptions… assuming 90% of polling stations are counted by 1am on Sunday 1st April and assuming the swing districts and large urban areas are part of that 90%, circa 1pm on same day, both parties should have a very good idea of who the winner is likely to be.
6. Both parties to publish their results online on said website.
Assuming both parties had a photo of the same RRF, I would expect identical results. Whoever the loser is shouldn’t have much to complain about other than perhaps employing a bunch of untrustworthy and inattentive polling agents, nothing to do with the winner.
To the NEC:
1. My understanding is that the RRF forms do a full reconciliation at the point of counting. This would now include the few officials who would vote at that polling station, increasing the votes past 300.
To my mind, I would expect zero instances of “over-voting” save for as mentioned above. Assuming your systems are robust, once the RRF results have been pushed through centres, districts, regions and NEC HQ, I would not expect any differences in your collated numbers to the aggregated source RRF forms.
2. Ensure all polling agents at all polling stations are allowed to take a photo of the completed and signed RRF forms
3. Create a similar website and post the results real time as they are aggregated by your officials, district by district, and at a granular level if so desired
4. Encourage NEW to give an exit poll prediction as was done last time – based on a 5% sampling.
5. Be prepared to explain any variance greater than 1% of the results both parties have published (assuming they have similar results), and be prepared to face the music if you cannot explain it.
All the rhetoric of VPN, internet hacks etc is indeed quite alarming but even if that may be true, doing the above cuts out the systematic roll-up of the numbers and challenges the integrity of NEC controls and processes.
The above can be executed within 24 hours based on my research (for the forward thinking efficient outfit), and would not cost either party more than $20k in labour, hardware and software setup costs.
My prediction on the runoff:
The winner will be the one who:
1. Kept their base energised
2. Increased turnout in low turnout areas in Round 1
3. Suffers the least from voter apathy
4. Manages to get a bigger slice of the voters of the smaller parties not in contention
May the best party and Mama Sa Lone win!!!
About the author
Trevor Jenkins-Johnston is the MD of Smartcloud Accountants, in the UK