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Modernising Trade Union Elections In Fiji The Fijian Elections office is introducing electronic voting for union polls only.

Modernising Trade Union Elections In Fiji The Fijian Elections office is introducing electronic voting for union polls only.
Electoral Commission Chairperson Suresh Chandra receives Touchscreen Voting Machines from AWEB Director General, Seongbae Kang on November 23, 2017.. Photo: Fijian Elections Office
November 24
10:19 2017

The Association of World Election Bodies [AWEB] concluded the delivery of 53 Touch Screen Voting machines and related electronic hardware to the Fijian Elections Office [FEO] yesterday, November 23, 2017.

Touch Screen Voting Machines for Trade Union Elections were handed over by the Director General of AWEB, Mr. Seong-bae Kang to Chairperson of the Electoral Commission Mr. Suresh Chandra.

In his remarks at the Ceremony, Chairperson Chandra highlighted the growing demand for electronics in everyday life and that it was prudent for the FEO to investigate technologies available in elections.

The FEO conducts up to 100 elections for Trade Unions in the country annually and these machines are specifically for use in these elections.

The cooperation between the FEO and AWEB isn’t just about Touch-screen Voting Machines.

A record of discussions signed between the two organisations in March confirms AWEB’s support in building redundant networks and security systems for the stable management and operation of the FEO server room.

Supervisor of Elections Mohammed Saneem during the handover ceremony, also attested that the automation of Trade Union elections will improve transparency and efficiency, presenting an ideal environment to introduce innovative enhancements at a smaller scale.

AWEB is a leader in terms of elections ICT in the world, with significant capacity when it comes to access to and availability of experts in various IT fields that may not be readily available in the Pacific let alone Fiji.

Why the need for electronic voting machines?

There are collectively 25,065 registered trade union members in 74 industrial associations around Fiji.

In addition to this, the FEO also conducts elections for University Student Bodies.

A number of these union bodies can have elections scheduled at any time of the year.

The use of Touch-screen Voting Machines means these elections can be conducted much quicker, with more efficiency, fewer resources and less manpower while still delivering high standards.

The TSV Machines also introduce various levels of security around trade union elections.

It only accepts a specific type of ballot paper.

The machine only reads paper that it has bar-coded and logged internally as a genuine ballot paper.

The machine also minimises human error in the counting process because it’s able to tabulate and print results in a matter of milliseconds.

The 2015-2019 Strategic Plan of the FEO required it to investigate and ‘implement innovative solutions to improve the administration of elections in Fiji.’

It must be made clear that the Touch-screen Voting Machines are not meant for General Elections.

Chair of the Electoral Commission Mr Suresh Chandra pointed out that the 2018 General Election will not have any electronics involved, but the Electoral Commission welcomes the FEOs futuristic approach in exploring what’s out there in the market and ensuring that Fiji is not left behind in this age of information enhancement.

How does it work?

Firstly, a Presiding Officer will enter the details of the trade union election including the candidate and the post being contested, as well as the venue.

He or she will then create ballot papers using the machine, based on the number of voters registered.

The machine will give each ballot paper a unique bar-code.

This ensures that a ballot paper is not used multiple times and that a virtual record of the ballot paper is kept in the TSV Machine.

The Touch-screen Voting Machines are similar to a smartphone.

Voters select their candidate from a list (which can include photos) which is displayed on the screen.

They can select multiple candidates where more than one position is being contested.

Once a voter has voted, the Machine will print out the selection on the same ballot paper and this must be placed in a translucent ballot box.

At the end of voting, the Presiding Officer will close voting and print out the results.

The TSV Machine can also transmit the result directly to the Fijian Elections Office Head Quarters in a secure transmission portal in an encrypted format.

While the idea may be new to Fiji, electronic voting has been around over a decade, used in countries like Republic of Korea, Estonia, Australia, Belgium, India and the United States to name a few.

In Fiji, we thought it best to introduce it in Trade Union Elections.

The Association of World Election Bodies which is the supplier of the machines is an industry leader in introducing ICT to Electoral Management Bodies.

It has supplied similar equipment to the Central Election Commission of the Kyrgyz Republic which used the platform to conduct a national election in 2015, including voter identification, voting, counting and transmission of results.

These were then compared with the results counted manually.

A-WEB has a membership of 110 countries including the largest democracy in the world – India.

It has built a reputation as the provider of capacity building programmes which advocate and promote the use of the latest technologies in the delivery of elections.

In March of this year, the Secretary General of A-WEB Mr Kim Yong-Hi visited Fiji to sign a Terms of Reference with the Fijian Elections Office for a project to support building electoral transparency through the automation of the voting and counting system in Fiji.

The signing formalised the partnership between A-WEB and FEO to introduce Touch-Screen Voting Machines for industrial elections in Fiji.

Feedback:  jyotip@fijisun.com.fj

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