SMS voter verification method secure – MEC

The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) says its new voter verification system using SMS is secure from crimes such as hacking and intrusion into voter data.

After successfully registering 6.8 million voters in the voter registration exercise which ended in November, MEC announced that it has commenced the voter verification exercise this month to enable registered voters to correct mistakes in their personal details by SMS or physical inspection at voter registration centres.

MEC Chairperson Justice Dr Jane Ansah said this in a press statement delivered in Lilongwe on Tuesday. Reads the statement:

“Ladies and gentlemen, I need also to address security issues. Be assured that our SMS system is secure and delinked from the MEC main server for the voters register. Even in the unlikely case of an intrusion or attack by hackers to the SMS system, this will not affect the MEC servers for the voters register in any way. The database for the SMS system is separate and only contains the text details of the voters’ register.”

In the statement, the MEC Chairperson also unveiled MEC’s new toll-free verification code, *2019#, which voters can dial using TNM or AIRTEL to verify their personal data in the preliminary voter’s register.

According to Dr Ansah, the adoption of the new code was enabled by, development Partner, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) after an earlier agreement with Malawi Electoral Support Network (MESN) to use 5VOTE (58683) failed to take off.

“We are glad that they [UNDP] accepted our abrupt proposal and a verification system has been developed very fast and that is why we have this new code of 2019. We also believe this new code is easier to remember and use by all stakeholders because 2019 is the magic year when we will have our elections,” reads part of the statement.

MEC has since called for concerted efforts from electoral stakeholders in mobilizing masses to participate in the voter verification exercise

Meanwhile, Church and Society Programme of the CCAP Synod of Livingstonia through its Executive Director Moses Mkandawire has urged registered voters to utilize the verification window to process any complaints on their voter registration details before the Polling Date.

“It’s important that any potential voter should be able to verify his or her name. I would want to encourage all Malawians, 18 years, and above and those that took part in the voter registration to verify their names both first name, last name and photographs.   It would be very difficult to complain during voting if your name was not written properly,” said Mkandawire.

Mkandawire has also echoed MECs plea for collaborated efforts in ensuring that all eligible voters verify their data before the consolidation of the final voter’s register.

“I would want religious bodies, civil society institutions, MEC, political parties traditional leaders and all those Malawians of good will to   spread the message to our friend, to our fellow citizens to say that MEC has actually put in place this kind of the system and let us go and verify our names,” Mkandawire said.

The voter verification exercise started on December 10 and is expected to run in phases until January 9, 2019.  During the exercise, registered voters will be allowed verify   if their personal data including names and photographs were recorded correctly via SMS or physical inspection before the consolidation of a final Voter’s Register which will guide voting on May 21, 2019.

Meanwhile, MEC has also announced that it has removed thousands of names that were duplicated after some people registered twice at two different centres and instead the Electoral Body has added 7,808 and, 653 names that were missed in Dedza and other districts.

The preliminary number of registered voters   now stands at 6,859,375 from 6,856,295 before the clean- up in preliminary the voter’s roll.