FORENSIC INQUIRY IMPERATIVE ABOUT GRENADA’S COMPUTERISED VOTER REGISTRATION SYSTEM
PART TWO [ By J. K. Roberts (Sound Public Policies Advocate); Circulated on Tuesday, 06 October 2020 ].
Despite the flaws of the standard pattern and practice adopted in Grenada, the integral role that rewarding general elections play in ensuring a thriving democracy, political stability and national prosperity must not be underestimated. General elections provide the legitimate gateway for a change in political governance, upon the sovereign craving, choice and consent of the people. The Parliamentary Elections Office (PEO) is the nerve-center for coordinating the pertinent processes on behalf of the people, within a set constitutional framework; however, the PEO lacks a show of accountability, sensitivity and integrity on the issues and hopes of the people.
The urgent plea, with important warnings, is being made for patriotic Grenadians and significant stakeholders to challenge the modus operandi and status quo of the PEO, as administered by the Supervisor of Elections (SoE). Everyone must be sensitized, aroused, empowered and united to arrest the ills of the electoral processes. Thus for example; a court-case ought to be pursued under the application of section 101 of the constitution, in order to determine whether or not the PEO is operating with honest intent in the spirit of its establishment and esteem, and to affirm that it is necessary and expedient for PEO to report to the House of Representatives on the exercise of its functions as outlined in section 35; and for the court to order that the PEO implements all justifiable and realistic measures for securing its credibility and preparedness before the next elections. Review the previously internet-circulated article, “Patriotic Grenadians Assist In Suing The Supervisor Of Elections!”, along with Part One under this caption, “Forensic Inquiry Imperative About Grenada’s Computerised Voter Registration System”. To know about the ills related to elections but not tackling them tactically is disgusting.
A significant aspect on the preparedness and credibility of the PEO is about its ‘capacity and due diligence and efficiency’ for the registration of voters and the finalization of the current voters’ list; and thus this brings for probing the pledged obligation of the SoE to have strict compliance with the legislative parameters for the Computerised Voter Registration System as introduced in December 2010 for greater ‘security and secrecy’ of the pertinent processes. Having a change, around the year 2015, in the ownership and maintenance personnel of this central digital voter registration set-up, and in light of the rapid upgrades in digital technology, the forensic inquiry using sophisticated diagnostic software should also be directed to ascertain if the original architecture and algorithm of the system, as supplied or installed by 3M Canada Company, have been tampered with or adjusted in any form or fashion so as to make easy for it to be hacked into for political interest.
The Computerised Voter Registration System has been established primarily for the purposes of registration for elections in accordance with the provisions of the Representation of the People Act (RPA), being consistent with section 35 of the national constitution. This digital set-up should serve as the single system for storing and managing the list of electors throughout Grenada, contain the name and such information of every person who is qualified and registered to vote in Grenada, and assign a voter registration number that is unique, to every person registered therein; section 8 of the RPA. It would be of a criminal violation if this digital voter registration set-up has been or is being intermingled with any other computer networks, such as the normal computer system used for the everyday promotional, administrative and communication duties of the PEO and its officers.
The Computerised Voter Registration System should also have nothing to do with the direct ‘on the day’ conducting of elections; and thus it is not to be used for, and mingled with, the recording of the votes cast, calculating of the votes cast, processing the votes cast and communicating the votes cast. In fact; there are no statutory provisions for the scoring of elections’ votes digitally. Particularly; RPA section 70 on Proceedings After Poll, instructs that the presiding officer shall “ …. record and count the number of votes given to each candidate on the tally sheets supplied, giving full opportunity to those present to examine each ballot paper. …. (‘and’) …. immediately after the completion of the counting of the votes, shall take and subscribe …. the oaths in the forms set out …. (‘also’) …. make the necessary number of copies of the statement of the poll in the form set out …. ”.
The level of access to the Computerised Voter Registration System, for whatever genuine purpose including maintenance of the equipment and/or of the pertinent information, must also be in question for its security and integrity. A thought-provoking question to be addressed by the SoE is about the ‘ethical and legal’ justifications, including on the scope of the technological services needed, for the contracting of an external private computer company for maintaining the voter’s registration digital set-up; when considering that the PEO is being staffed with a Computer System Administrator (RPA, First Schedule, Articles 30, 31, 32) but yet the SoE declares that all technical support service for the production of voter identification cards has been outsourced to AZITS – a local ICT solution company (https://www.nowgrenada.com/2020/01/new-voter-identification-cards-to-be-issued/). Review also the related past article “Grenada’s Voting Process Setting For More Controversies And Contempt”.
An excerpt from another previously circulated article “Grenada’s Voter ID Card : How Legal And Applicable?” is relevantly referred to. “Is the software system developed for the production of the voter card different, or separate and apart, from the Computerised Voter Registration System as is stipulated and regulated by RPA? To what extent must the ‘voter card software system’, and / or the computerized voter registration system be supported or maintained; could the software be changed and any glitch corrected? What are the ‘confidentiality and safety’ regulations established for a private Software System contractor to have access to the database of the voter registration system and other pertinent electoral operations; (‘and was an oath taken’)? Moreover; what is the guarantee that the computer voter system is not exposed to or connected with external agencies such as the ‘renowned’ Cambridge Analytica / SCL Group, formerly Strategic Communication Laboratories (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cambridge_Analytica) / (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SCL_Group) ?”
The sovereign establishment and esteem and independence of the PEO have been entrenched in the constitution. This also gives reasons for the Computerised Voter Registration System to be isolated and safeguarded from any form or any indication of fraudulent possibilities. The digital voter registration set-up should not be part of any government internal computer network or be connected to any government website, such as the Government Information Service or the National Portal, and to any main server in the Prime Minister’s office. Moreover; it would not only be offensive, but a treacherous conspiracy for the digital set-up to be part of the Electronic Government Regional Integration Project (EGRIP) as apparently is the case in Dominica (https://www.worldbank.org/en/results/2016/09/21/supporting-egovernment-systems-in-the-caribbean).
Recall that constitutional lawyer, Sir Lawrence Albert Joseph, who is also a past Speaker and President of the House of Representatives and the Senate respectively, and a long-time prominent member of the NNP and served as a member of the Mitchell’s government, establishes in his September 2012 article in the local press that the system which registers voters can be compromised. The registering situation of voters becomes more of a burden in light of the number of foreign people obtaining Citizenship By Investment status and who may be processed to vote in the local elections. In fact; in March 2018 both the CARICOM Election Observation Mission (https://today.caricom.org/2018/03/15/caricom-observer-mission-releases-preliminary-statement-on-grenada-elections/) and the Electoral Experts Mission of the Organization of American States (http://www.oas.org/documents/eng/press/Preliminary-Statement-OAS-Electoral-Experts-Misson-Grenada.pdf) express critical concerns about the registration process and finalization of the voter’s list, and pose a number of sweeping recommendations for enhancing the accuracy, reliability, credibility and foolproof of the elections.
It would be indeed weak and / or wicked for the PEO to enter a next elections without initiating for the execution of the outstanding electoral reform, but that after the elections for it to attempt to heed the need for doing so. On these democratic issues, Grenadians should never allow the government to set and direct the narrative and thereby for it to sway its bias contents for the reform. The record of Grenada’s experiment on its constitutional referenda and the ongoing Dominica’s example on electoral reform must be instructive for the people in going forward; also keeping in mind efforts of not to experience again the political upheaval and public misery that featured the 1973-1983 period in Grenada. (https://www.caribbeannationalweekly.com/caribbean-breaking-news-featured/dominica-expects-report-on-constitutional-reform-by-december/ pertinent reference).