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Home » Elections and Governance

Oman Case Study

Submitted by on 12 Jul 2012 – 12:16

OmanBy Sue McBreen, Account Manager, Friday’s Media Group

Award-winning technology from the UK is being used by emerging democracies around the Globe to implement and manage fair and efficient voting.

National governments of both established and emerging democracies face legitimate challenges with regard to the modernisation of election processes. From capturing voter registration details through to processing complex combined elections, the administrative burden and the pressure to deliver democratic, free and fair elections are crucial issues to address.

UK election solution provider DRS Data Services Ltd is supporting the provision of election technologies to countries worldwide, using their expertise as a global leader in election management to help ensure the security, integrity and accuracy of results.

Working extensively with national governments, local authorities, international election stakeholders and non-government public and private sector organisations, DRS has played a significant role in many ground breaking electoral modernisation projects, providing election technologies for the initial establishment of secure and robust voters lists and for both the casting and counting of votes.

DRS has worked with many Electoral Commissions around the globe, including the National Independent Electoral Commission of Burkina Faso (CENI) to secure the efficient and accurate registration of an electorate of five million voters and most recently, in autumn 2011, DRS successfully provided their specialist electronic ballot counting technology for the Oman Majlis A’Shura Legislative Council elections that took place on 15th October.

DRS had previously supported the 2007 and 2003 elections in Oman and after a vigorous evaluation and procurement process, this most recent provision built on their success. Working in collaboration with DRS’ established partner in Oman, Bahwan IT, the project was managed from end to end. One of the key aspects of the partnership is that DRS integrates its high speed real time ballot counting technology with Bahwan’s bespoke Arabic language secure election application and its local delivery capabilities. This unique technology solution ensures transparency throughout the whole counting process.

The decision to use electronic counting methods over traditional manual counting was taken to tackle some of the common issues associated with manual counts including the length of time taken to count the votes. For Oman specifically, an automated solution also addressed the issues of coping with a variable number of candidates and ballot papers with photographs. The need for count centres across Oman rather than a centralised count office had also posed logistical and security issues during the manual process, as a large number of staff were required, each needing a very clear and precise understanding of their roles and responsibilities. Crucially the DRS electronic solution meant that this was no longer a challenge.

Critically DRS also supported DRS Bahwan IT in the delivery of a training program enabling local count centre staff to understand the methods required to prepare ballot papers and to operate the scanning technology. Approximately 600,000 ballot papers were provided by DRS, along with 83 scanners located in 61 regional counting stations. Reports in Oman confirm that voter turnout was around 76% and each voter was authenticated at the polling station using a National ID Smartcard, before casting their vote for one of the 1000+ candidates on one of 61 ballot paper types.

Results, once captured at each local centre, were transmitted and consolidated at a central site. The use of technology meant that the time taken to produce a result was significantly reduced, as was the number of staff required to count the ballot papers. The results were actually declared within 12 hours of voting ending, a very short and economical timescale compared to solution manual process.

Bahwan IT General Manager, M K Janaki Raman, was quick to praise DRS, saying; “The Oman elections went well, thanks to the excellent support from the DRS team. The entire process of voting and counting was well over in less than 24 hours.”

The DRS e-counting solution used in Oman has significant features that clearly gave the Oman Majlis A’Shura Legislative Council the transparency required to declare the election a success. These include high security measures through audit trails and access controls, the guarantee that each paper is counted, but counted only once and the assurance that the correct number of ballot papers is entered into the count.

Automated election technologies such as the comprehensive solutions provided by DRS in Oman, undoubtedly offer security and reliability whether utilised for capturing voter registration details or for facilitating the voting process itself in electronic counting projects. However many of the world’s election associations including the Association of African Elections and the ACEEEO (Association of European Election Officials), whilst wholeheartedly championing election modernisation; stress the necessity for independent review and accreditation of election technologies to ensure they are properly integrated into the electoral administrative process. DRS proactively supports this policy and is an active member of these associations, offering advice and assistance when required, having now delivered efficiency and security to the electoral administration process in countries as diverse as Iceland, Oman, Hong Kong and Bosnia & Herzegovina.