The Sirekap electronic recapitulation information system application which had already been downloaded by Eko Widjadso, the head of the Depok Jaya voting group in Depok, West Java, turned out not to operate well.
The application seeks to simplify information management in local elections. The regional elections will use the application to help publicize the number of votes real-time. Yet, officers will still use manual copying and reporting as a point of reference to determine the winners of the regional elections.
This decision is aligned with the agreement between the General Elections Commission (KPU) and the House of Representatives on Nov. 12. KPU commissioner Evi Novida Ginting Manik said the digital system trial would be conducted nationwide across 304,000 voting booths spread across 270 regions.
Evi said she hoped the trials could give KPU a comprehensive picture on how to fully implement the system in the 2024 elections.
Eko failed to upload a scanned election-related document image file into the application after he had tried several times. His smartphone screen continuously came up with a notification saying “failed to upload picture”, bearing the color red.
“The application is always in error whenever I try to send some data. Perhaps the rain has destabilized cellular connections here?” Eko told jaring.id on Monday, Nov. 23.
The Elections Supervision Agency (Bawaslu) revealed that Eko’s case in Depok was not an isolated one (so maybe the document uploading failure was not due to the rain).
Out of the 157 regencies and cities which conducted the same application trial on Nov. 21, more than 30,000 voting booths had experienced such failures. These voting booths were spread across Jambi, Bali, East Java, West Java and South Sulawesi. Meanwhile, 4,000 voting booths in Kalimantan experienced some troubles too.
While these failures had partly been caused by poor internet connection (and in Kalimantan, electricity blackouts), Bawaslu commissioner Muhammad Afifuddin also admitted that the application still had a poor operational system.
“It takes 30 minutes just to upload one document,” he told jaring.id on Nov. 24.
The condition, he said, had also been exacerbated by the low accuracy level of the application’s scanning capacity.
The application is also still unable to read numbers accurately. For instance, the number 0 is read as 8, the number 082 is read as 200 and so on.
He claimed that these gross inaccuracies happened due to the type of cell phone used to take the pictures, the quality of the photo taken of the election-related form, lighting as well as picture angle.
Therefore, Bawaslu requested the KPU to immediately anticipate system failure and to make sure that the local poll administrators (KPPS) to work properly.
He did not want the digital recapitulation technology to serve as a burden instead of a solution, at a time when the KPPS had already been tasked to monitor the implementation of health protocols in these polling stations, which could be a tall order.
As per General Elections Law No. 7/2017 and Regional Elections Law No. 10/2016, the 2024 general elections will comprise seven different elections in just one day. These elections will comprise presidential election, which will be followed by governor and deputy governor, regents and mayors as well as their deputies, as well as the election of lawmakers who will serve in the Regional Representatives Council, House of Representatives as well as the Regional People’s Representative Council on the provincial, regency and city levels.
Due to the enormity of the 2024 general elections, the KPU is pushing for the acceleration of digital technology in the upcoming elections. Besides being able to accelerate the recapitulation process, Evi said that the digital system could also prevent the tragic deaths of various voting officers in the 2019 elections due to exhaustion: about 894 officers died, while 5,175 others were fallen sick due while being on duty.
The majority of them were exhausted when they had to fill out 548 document forms manually.
“We hope this system can help the candidate pairs and their campaign teams to conduct some rapid vote assessments,” Evi told Jaring.id on Nov. 20.
Evi said that currently the KPU was focusing on improving the application’s operational system. She claimed that the application’s optical mark recognition had already been valid, while the KPU still needed to improve the application’s optical character recognition system gradually through simulations across various regions.
The KPU will also conduct yet another trial on the app on Nov. 28 and 29, as well as Dec. 5 to 7, according to Evi.
“We will evaluate on what kinds of risk mitigation we need to take with regards to our application use, including to assess the elements which we still need to develop to prepare the use of the information technology in the future,” she said.
During the first phase of the simulation, KPU also discovered that about 17,000 voting booths had some internet connection problems. The Sumenep regency in East Java is one of the regions which take quite a long time, about 24 hours, to send their recapitulation results via the application. Meanwhile, in Banten, the document uploading process finishes only after an hour.
Therefore, Evi said the KPU would give an up to 24-hour spare time for these regions with troubled internet connection to send their recapitulation results through the application. If the uploading process still failed, the voting officers could simply send their documents offline using Bluetooth devices.
“We will continue to push our friends across all regions to use the application. They are still mandated to use the application in the regional elections although we will only use it as an auxiliary tool for testing purposes this time,” Evi said.
Separately, Anwar Ansori, a member of KPU’s regional chapter in Kediri, East Java, said he fully supported the use of digital technology in the 2020 regional elections as he believes the application can make the recapitulation process more effective and efficient.
He said that the KPU still needed to conduct these simulations down to the KPPS level. Previously, the first phase of the application testing in Kediri touched upon only its regency level.
“Only officials working with the KPU could understand how to use the application, because the KPPS officers have yet to try them,” he told jaring.id on Nov. 20.
The lack of educational programs and preparations in each region has become the basis of the House of Representatives’ rejection of the KPU’s suggestion to use the application. Another issue that they face is poor internet network.
According to Ahmad Doli Kurnia Tandjung, the chairman of Commission II of the House of Representatives overseeing home affairs, the application is not ready to be used to count the votes during the 2020 regional elections. Yet, he said he supported the idea that the voting officers would use the app only as a supplementary tool to the vote-counting process on Dec. 9, which could help the KPU identify the most salient application use problems in each region.
“The KPU needs to make sure that elections officers on every administrative level understand how to use the application. This can dramatically minimize vote counting and recapitulation errors,” he said during a meeting among lawmakers on Nov. 12.
A researcher for the Network for Democracy and Electoral Integrity, Hadar Nafis Gumay, said he agreed with the lawmakers’ decision banning the use of the application for the upcoming regional elections. For instance, to this point we still do not have any video tutorials showing us how to use the application yet.
“This is a new system, we need to conduct a comprehensive testing on it before deciding to shift from manual counting to the digital one using the application in the upcoming elections,” Haidar said on Nov. 21.
The lack of public education regarding the use of the application in the regional elections can potentially lead to chaos, according to the former KPU commissioner.
He said that voting officers, the candidates as well as public members needed to know that the application’s counting results would be different from that of the manual process. He said he did not want the forced use of the new application to cause new problems, such as the vote counting dispute which happened during the 2019 general elections to happen again. (In 2019, the public did not trust the data which had already been inputted to the information system because it did not match the conventional vote recapitulation results).