By Ajnadin Mustafa.
Tripoli, 30 October 2015:
The Libyan Higher National Elections Commission (HNEC) says it has successfully tested SmartElect, an open-source platform . . .[restrict]for individual electoral registration throughout the country via SMS.
According to HNEC, this will enable more than one and a half million people to register to vote in the referendum for the new constitution, whenever that takes place, and in future elections. It added that the system had already passed the “experimental phases” in two previous elections, those for the Constitutional Drafting Assembly (CDA) and the House of Representatives (HoR).
“This technology would considerably improve our performance, as it already helped us in overcoming obstacles in election law implementation while saving us time and money,” said Emad Al-Sayeh, the head of HNEC.
According to a US-based company in charge of developing SmartElect, the building of the platform, “driven by the HNEC’s need for a voter registration alternative”, took two years to produce.
Libya’s size and the long distances some would-be voters would need to travel to register was one factor driving the need to come up with an electronic alternative. The present conflict was another.
“The interim Libyan government and HNEC faced extraordinary challenges in access to elections: challenging terrain, nomadic populations, and civil unrest. They turned to text message voter registration as a low-cost and more accessible alternative to reach more people safely,” the US programming company Caktus Group said in a statement.
Among the nine features are: voter registration and polling center management, SMS voter registration, bulk messaging to registered voters, text message reporting tools for poll workers, and quick vote tabulations to improve electoral integrity.
In last Libyan elections, around 630,000 voters casted their ballots to vote for the HoR in June 2014, according to HNEC.
It may be some time before the system is put into operation. The draft constitution is, according to the CDA, almost finished – although, as Libyans have found out with the UN-brokered Libya Dialogue, “almost finished” can mean total gridlock over the final details. Even if it is published in the next few weeks, there are also serious questions whether Libya would be able to hold a referendum in the current situation. [/restrict]