Do you remember when ‘V11’ became part of our vernacular in this country? Feels like yesterday, right? We may use it as a placeholder for “Where is the proof?” now, but the time is coming when we will use it for its intended purpose.
The 2023 general elections are almost here, and this time we’re all aware of the importance of V11 forms. If you’re not, V11 forms are original documents that carry the results from a polling station and are signed by agents of all contesting parties.
The V11 forms are the source documents for the election results. If you had a chance to look at all of them, you would have the exact election results. If (it’s more accurate to say ‘when’) election results are contested, we will have to turn to these documents to resolve the dispute.
The recap was necessary to understand the story at hand:
One of the opposition political parties in the country is looking to employ this V11 form to ensure there are no shenanigans in the collation of election results.
CCC says they are deploying a Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT) system dubbed the Citizens DemoVox PVT system. Parallel means it will run alongside the official vote tabulation system by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission.
This means it can be an accurate, secure and fully auditable tabulation of the vote, in theory. CCC says “The system ensures not only that we will have access to the real vote count, but above all, that we have the capacity to provide hard, independently verifiable evidence to back up our victory.”
Sounds like rainbows, but let’s explore it further to see what has them all giddy like this.
What is a PVT system?
CCC says it safeguards the integrity of elections by crowdsourcing, organising and sharing real-time monitoring of incidents and vote counts, derived from local, observable tabulations.
In simpler English, it collects data on the voting and counting process at each polling station, including the number of registered voters, the number of ballots cast, and the number of votes cast for each candidate. This data is then tabulated independently from the official results, and the two sets of results are compared.
How will DemoVox PVT work?
They say their polling agents and citizens will upload photos of certified V11 forms, as well as the tabulation numbers from each local ward. This should enable them to compile and share a comprehensive, accurate vote count that can be fully audited and verified by any independent actor, by tracing the numbers back to the original V11 forms.
Of course, the ruling party will have no problem with this. We are going to have free and fair elections and so it won’t matter if someone does their own counting on the side. It will all tally if we start with the same V11 forms.
So, ZANU PF won’t have a problem with it in principle but is it legal? CCC says “Agents of all competing parties are allowed by law to supervise and jointly certify the vote count at each polling station. Those certified totals compiled on “V11” forms must, by law, be publicly displayed outside each polling station immediately after the completion of the polling station vote count.”
They add that it is important to note that every aspect of this PVT program is in full compliance with the Electoral Act and all other applicable Zimbabwean laws.
So, DemoVox PVT might have legal standing. I guess the only caveat is that they can’t declare a winner. They can use their tabulated data to contest but it’s not recognised as an official result.
Boots on the ground
That’s legal standing sorted but what about CCC’s ability to deploy agents at all polling stations? That’s where the biggest question mark lies in my opinion. The DemoVox system sounds like a plan but fielding observers at every polling station has always proven to be a challenge for opposition parties.
CCC acknowledges this and says, “Despite challenging circumstances and limited resources, the Citizens are working hard to deploy agents at every polling station.”
It will be a challenge because they need to deploy 4 polling agents at each of the 12 370 polling stations across the country. That’s 49,480 people.
Not to mention that the system will have to handle at least 12,370 images being uploaded in a few hours. I’m guessing there will have to be some optical character recognition software employed to quickly capture what’s on the uploaded V11 forms. If not, plenty of humans will have to sift through it all, which sounds daunting.
Then the data will have to be dumped on some spreadsheet and sorted. All of this will have to be done in real-time.
There are logistical issues in ensuring the agents have smartphones with decent cameras so that the uploaded images are useful. They will also need data to upload the pics. It’s not a small problem to solve for.
There’s probably more to it that I didn’t even touch on. We shall see how it all shakes out.
Good to see
An independent system that verifies election results sounds like a good idea to me. Imagine the best-case scenario where the DemoVox PVT results are the same as the official ones to a reasonable degree. That would remove any chance of anyone contesting the results.
In cases of significant differences, we can zero in on the contentious wards and save time and effort. Whatever result DemoVox claims is true will have supporting V11s and it will be easier to reconcile the differences.
I don’t care which political party you support, you have to agree that if deployed fully and correctly, PVT systems sound like a good idea. They are not new by any stretch but the problem has always been the logistical challenge of fielding agents who capture V11s at every polling station. Will CCC be the ones to crack it? We shall see.