Can we trust ourselves? - Solomon Star News

Can we trust ourselves?

26 June 2014

While computers can be trusted to churn out the rubbish, can we trust ourselves to do the same?

LAST week the Solomon Islands Electoral Commission announced its newly-installed Biometrics Voter Registration (BVR) system detected nearly 6,000 potential voters who repeatedly registered to vote in the national general elections later this year.

One voter registered nine times followed by three people who registered seven times while five registered six times and on and on it goes.

Ten people registered five times, eighty-three registered four times while 386 people registered three times. The largest number, 4, 891 people registered twice.

It was simply amazing that people, driven largely by money, had gone that far. And it does not take a rocket scientist to work out why they did so.

First and foremost, it seems the intention is very clear. They wanted to beat and stay ahead of the new system. They failed.

Secondly, almost all wanted to make a few extra bobs (money) by flashing their voter registration cards in front of unsuspecting MPs and intending candidates.

Having multiple cards meant they could fool as many candidates as possible without being caught for double dipping.

It’s rather unfortunate that many sitting MPs and intending candidates fell for the trap.

Others, it seems, were colluding with the offending individuals from the outset intentionally to get ahead of the system. Simply put, the intention is to corrupt the new BVR system.

The BVR has found them wanting. But they should not be underestimated.

Discovering the offending individuals in the voter registration process is really the beginning.

It is a significant step forward in efforts to stem out corrupt practices in our electoral process.

Efforts by SIEC and donors in installing the new BVR system are exemplary of what we all can achieve together if we cooperate together.

However, we are not out of the woods just as yet. The road ahead to the Election Day is still littered with a number of potential problems. In my view, what is significantly worrying is what happens on the day of voting.

It takes me back to the title of this piece. It is this.

While computers can be trusted to churn out the rubbish, can we trust ourselves to do the same?

Machines and other electronic devices are only tools. They can do a lot of things for us.

But regardless of how efficient and sophisticated they might be, they are still controlled by a human being that created the system in the first place.

In our situation, that human being who mans the polling booths and how he or she behaves on Election Day is the main concern here.

Can we trust that human being enough to for example, help keep the baddies away from casting their votes on the day of the election?

Can we really trust them?

And if there are grounds for suspecting something untowards are afoot, will there be sufficient safety measures in place to deal with any eventuality?

What are, for example, the penalties for offending officers? How soon can these officers be dealt with in a court of law?

Of course this is not a call on SIEC to divulge their modus operandi in terms of conducting the election, but we are being constantly reminded of past actions or rather non actions by officers including police officers manning the polling booths around the country.

It is time a clear message of deterrent is sent out to voters that they will face the full force of the law should they knowingly proceed with their intention to corrupt the new voting system.

Finally, the cameras and other electronic equipment used to produce the voter cards.

Are they stored in the safest of custody? What actions if any have been taken to ensure that the programs used to produce the cards cannot be replicated elsewhere?

Today’s technology is no longer held in the safest of places as we would like to think. There are smart hackers out there who can easily do this for a few extra dollars.

This is one more reason for sending a very clear message that anyone who dares faces the full force of the law.

The public needs to be assured of that. Can we trust ourselves enough to help technology clean up corruption in our electoral system?

Only the SIEC can provide us the Barak Obama line, “YES WE CAN.”

By Alfred Sasako