Surely IEC can do better

After intense weeks of campaigns, more than 11,000 voters of Goodhope/Mabule took to the polls on Saturday for a by-election. The process of voting was smooth, with no or few incidents reported.

But just as hope rose that all was on track, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) put the nation through the anxious moments of verification and counting. For more than 16 hours, the crowds waited outside Goodhope Secondary School hall for verification.

It was only after mid-day Sunday when the counting started, and more than 12 hours later, at about 2am Monday that Kgosi Lotlamoreng II of the Umbrella for Democratic Change was announced the ultimate winner, and the new MP.  But it was too long a wait to truly celebrate for the winners, and many of their supporters had, by then trekked back to their work places.

Yes, it is important for the IEC to ensure that all steps are carried out, legally. Yes, it is important that in an election, there are no shortcuts and procedures and processes are followed lest the elections are compromised.

But the long tedious process, especially of verification, is bound to cause problems. Surely something can, and should be done about this process.

It is times like these when electronic voting makes sense. Electronic voting process ensures that everything is tallied as the vote is ongoing, and the computers count once the vote is done. The concept is not as foreign as it was 20 years ago, and it is no longer just for the Western world. Young democracies in the region - South Africa and Namibia - use electronic voting and the process is proving effective and eliminates potential electoral fraud and cheating.

Granted, electronic voting may be hampered by lack or shortage of ICT facilities and limited access and knowledge. But this is another area we can take advantage of to create jobs.

Another time consuming and potentially dangerous process, which in troubled times can be abused, is transportation of ballot boxes from the voting stations to the counting centre. With bad roads, and long distances undertaken in government vehicles, in some instances it took four hours to get the boxes to Goodhope. Surely there could be a better way.

There are better ways of transportation. Just as the ruling party can use the Botswana Defence Force aircraft to campaign, IEC can be afforded the opportunity to transport the ballot boxes to the counting centre. That way, ballot boxes can be at counting centres in minutes.

First, after voting, the boxes are sealed in the presence of political party agents who also add their own seal. Then the boxes are placed under police guard and flown to the counting centre.  Where there is political will, anything is possible.

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