x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Manual back-up plan to keep poll centres open

A walkthrough of the procedures used to make sure the voting centres run efficiently - even when things break down.

DUBAI // Voting centres can switch from an electronic system to a manual ballot in the event of a technical hitch at the election HQ, officials said yesterday.

The back-up plan was one of several details discussed at a National Election Committee (NEC) workshop for voting centre staff, which includes more than 1,000 volunteers nationwide.

If a problem occurred in the database of the main election centre, all centres must shift from electronic to manual. However, if the error is in an outlying centre, voters will simply be directed to the main facility.

"The electronic voting system is an accurate system, and there is only 0.01 to 0.02 per cent error risk, but we still want to make sure that we have solutions when errors occur, including the possibility to shift from electronic to manual voting if the system collapses," said Dr Saeed Al Ghafli, the rapporteur of the NEC, the body supervising the election.

The NEC is the only body authorised to make the decision to change systems. The director of the centre must allow no more than one hour to fix the problems before requesting the shift.

Yesterday's workshop, for election centre directors, their deputies and assistants, is the latest in a series that started on Friday.

"The aim of these workshops is to ensure that all procedures for the election day are understood," Dr Al Ghafli said.

There will be 13 election centres across the Emirates. Each has a director, a deputy and at least three assistants. The centre is divided into three zones: reception and training, examination of voter identification documents and voting.

The centres will open at 8am and the staff has been ordered to allow the candidates and the staff of each centre, if they are eligible to vote, to fill out their ballots before opening the centre to the rest of the public.

The centre's directors and deputies and an opening committee control access to the centre with electronic cards and passwords. The voting system cannot be activated without them.

Even security personnel will not be allowed inside the election centre unless called in by the director.

Each voter may spend a maximum of 10 seconds in front of the computer screen to vote.

"If a person spends a relatively longer time on the counter, then most probably there is a problem and one of the staff needs to approach, but one needs to make sure not to get too close to the voter so the secrecy of the voting is not altered," Dr Al Ghafli told the workshop.

Workers are not to allow any candidate to interact with voters inside the election hall.

Election day is September 24, and 129,000 people are expected to select 20 members of the Federal National Council.