Increasing Voter Turn-Up Using Mobile Phones as a Voting Tool

Increasing Voter Turn-Up Using Mobile Phones as a Voting Tool

Emmanuel Eilu (Makerere University, Uganda)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 13
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8430-0.ch005
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Because of defective elective elections which have been witnessed in the African continent for decades, some African countries have jumped onto the bandwagon of using electronic voting (e-Voting). E-Voting entails the use of technology in the voting processes. This chapter brings out the progress that has been made so far in e-Voting and comments on the extent to which this impacts the advancement of the overall principles of a democracy. The lessons outlined in the chapter may go a long way in informing future e-Voting interventions, especially in a developing world context.
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Many other countries in Africa have had defective election for decades. This has led to numerous election boycotts, general unrest and most of all, low voter turn up. To address these problems, a number of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) aided voting systems have emerged over years and these technologies have aided in detecting fraudulent practices and have improved voter turnout especially in Europe and other developed countries. A high number of developing countries especially in Africa are also beginning to introduce ICTs mainly in the initial stages of the election process, most notably- in the voter registration process were biometric technology has widely been used. It seems that post-conflict and emerging democracies in particular are making the biggest jumps into biometric voter registration with the aim of having a clean voter register- free of ghost voters, a free and fair election and most importantly to improve voter turn-up. Such countries in Africa include; Democratic Republic of Congo, Togo, Guinea Conakry, Uganda, Angola, Nigeria and Mozambique.

Though new technologies are anticipated to optimize credibility, efficiency and reduce disputes as well as costs, the reality has been different. Besides the many failures reported in such projects in many developing countries; such as in Uganda in 2001, Nigeria in 2007, Peru in 2000, Nicaragua in 2008, Somaliland in 2011, Cameroon and Sierra Leone in 2012 and more recently Kenya in 2013, these new technologies do not come cheap, and only donor support makes these purchases possible. In addition, whereas these technologies may reduce vote rigging, they may not be able to reduce voter intimidation and violence which often occurs at polling stations. These technologies may not adequately increase voter participation. This calls for a sustainable, appropriate, cost effective and transparent use of technology to improve voter turn up, particularly in post-conflict elections and in fragile and emerging democracies. Scholars suggest the use of mobile phones voting as a supplement to the existing system. For any developing country wishing to cost effectively increase citizen participation in decision making through ICT should take advantage of the opportunities provided by the explosive spread of mobile phones in the developing world. However, despite having a greater advantage over other ICT voting systems, the use of mobile phones as voting devices has not yet gained much acceptance in developing countries. This is a result of negative perceptions towards using mobile phones as a voting tool. For example, only 36 percent of the surveyed population in Uganda accepted to use their mobile phones for voting. Using persuasive and acceptance design strategies like reciprocity, effective computing, tunneling, social and political learning, perceived ease of use, perceived usefulness, tailoring, convenience and reminder discussed in this chapter can increase the acceptance rate of using mobile phone for voting in a developing country like Uganda by close to20 percent making it 66 percent acceptance rate.

Electoral malpractice and manipulation are among the principal obstacles to full democratization especially in states that have made an initial transition from dictatorship to self governance (Birch, 2008). Electoral malpractice has been categorized to mainly include: manipulation of the rules governing elections (by legislation) and manipulation of voter choice (Birch, 2008). According to Birch (2008), manipulation of voter choice especially is a deliberate form of fraud which includes activities such as ballot stuffing and fabrication of results. Lopez (2009) describes manipulation of voter choice as purposeful action to tamper with electoral activities and electoral related materials in order to affect the outcome of an election. This normally interferes with the will of the voters. Manipulation of voter choice can also be demonstrated through violent and intimidating behavior among the participating parties (Basuchoudhary & Shughart, 2010). According to Vergne (2009), violence, intimidation and fraud have been the leading cause of low voter turn-up in most developing countries. Approximately 14% of all multi-party elections in developing countries were boycotted from 1990-2002 as a result of election fraud, violence and intimidation (Beaulieu & Hyde, 2009). Low voter turn-up has also been registered in countries such as Uganda, Nigeria and Zimbabwe due to high levels of violence, intimidation and fraud (Collier & Vicente, 2008; EU, 2011; Ooala, 2011). Africa for example has got a record defective election, the most recent being reported in Zimbabwe and Kenya which for long had been regarded as emerging and progressive African countries (HURINET-U, 2010).

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