Making sense of digital election

Thursday June 18 2020


By Karoli Ssemogerere

Government has weighed the risks of postponing the election and demurred.
Both the term of Parliament and the President would have to be approved by a two thirds majority of Parliament.

By voters being solicited online on the Internet, the largest voting groups will see their favourite candidates on voting day. The Electoral Commission, aside from distributing voting materials, may experiment with simplified mechanical balloting and capitalise this expense.

Politicians would silently start clapping for the Electoral Commission to reduce the logistical challenges for candidates. Many countries are now using electronic voting, a potential boon for mobile phone users, voting by SMS is much cheaper than using a full ballot.

Like other systems, people may argue about disenfranchisement, but this can be managed by incorporating the other participants at the booth. Digital voting does not have ballot stuffing.

Card readers are the most hardware, but the law can provide for monitoring voting and counting both offline, but with secure transmission of results by station.

In Kenya ,TV viewers were in the 2017 presidential petition riveted by failures linked to digital failures. The Supreme Court of Kenya had no excuses by failure to comply with the law before striking down the first 2017 election.


In 2000, US machine fabricator Diebold was accused of manipulating the outcome on the ballot paper through its machines. Most of the US was still voting on paper at the time.

Today, grants have covered most, if not nearly all of the country. Democrats and Republicans went after in ways that would be unimaginable today. The courts ruled that unless it was a petition challenging an election, it had no business doing the work of electoral authorities.
Neither Republicans nor Democrats would use electronic voting yet elections in Florida have even closer. Voters go to court, but mostly to enforce vote counts, especially where the margin leads to an automatic vote recount.

Government’s current plans to have voters stay at home will leave a big section of the electorate disenfranchised.

Mere statements that this affects all candidates and voting groups in equal measure ignore that massive digital divide and prowess enjoyed by different subgroups.

Tamale Mirundi’s online footprint or Stella Nyanzi - both have a large digital footprint, but the composition and content they present is different.

Digital access may have other barriers. Voters may want to see fully coloured Ads, which may not be possible on the majority of phones upcountry. Smart phones may not be able to activate full pictures, but this is another factor equally affecting similar groups all over the country.

Pressure groups getting ready to “rent” their groups are potentially going to be unhappy youth groups, people for the ride who eventually forget who they planned to vote for when they reach the polling station. Hide your PIN or else face sanctions is a good enough message to protect the integrity of the ballot.

In the digital communications economy, radio, television, content creation and distribution are industries that will benefit from increased business. During the Papal visits, this was the case even though the media quickly switched back to manual as very few foreign broadcasters saw little need for retaining local producers that wasn’t reliable and lacking in attention to detail.

Technology is now much cheaper for most producers. A phone can produce good content including photography.

Coronavirus has forced broadcasters to switch to producing entire newscasts at homes in the kitchen, etc. This has come at a time when employers are sweating payroll and related expenses.

Mr Ssemogerere is an Attorney-At-Law and an Advocate.