SOME National Election Committee (NEC) members and their staff have been wandering
around with peculiarly colored fingers for the past few weeks.
It does not signify membership of a secret society. Rather, it is a consumer survey
of indelible ink formulations designed to thwart voter fraud.
The idea is that once a person has voted they dip their fingers into a pool of ink
so they cannot then go to another polling station and vote again.
While the idea is good in theory, it has taken some weeks to get a formula that approaches
The dye that immediately stains the finger can be scrubbed off, but silver nitrate
in the mix turns skin and particularly the finger nails black or dark brown after
about five minutes in sunlight.
One rights worker said he was concerned about the quality of the ink and the possibility
that if people managed to remove the dye and keep their finger out of the sun they
could vote again.
However a foreign NEC adviser said that even if the person managed to get the ink
off there were other safeguards to prevent double votes.
He said a fraudulent voter would still need to have another voter registration card
and be on another voter list to have another vote at another polling station.
The NEC is confident that while it might be unable to stop people trying to stuff
ballot boxes, it will detect the problem if it happens.
The election adviser said that the ballot boxes are double padlocked, then three
numbered security seals are placed on them. The box is then put into a plastic bag
and security sealed itself.
He said the number of ballot papers in a box has to tally with the voter list and
the stubs from which the ballot papers were torn.
If there is any discrepancy, plans are to declare that polling station invalid.
Meanwhile, there have been rumors of up to 20,000 registration cards having gone
missing and that cards and ballots have been counterfeited.
The NEC maintains that such actions will be of no use because registration cards
are only of use if the voter's name is on the voter list, while counterfeit ballot
papers are unlikely to incorporate a number of the security features found in genuine
ballots such as watermarks, microwriting and perforations.