Why iREV suffered glitches during 2023 Presidential election result upload – INEC

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) released its report on the 2023 general election on Friday, explaining the technical glitch experienced with its Results Viewing Portal iREV during the presidential election results upload.


According to the commission, while the glitch did not affect the fidelity of the presidential election result, it has taken measures to guard against a reoccurrence in future elections.


The INEC National Commissioner in Charge of Information and Voter Education Committee, Sam Olumekun said the comprehensive 526-page document, structured into 13 chapters and enhanced with 60 tables, 14 boxes, and 10 graphs, offers an in-depth analysis of the election’s key processes, achievements, and challenges, along with valuable lessons learned.


“The report showcases the election’s unparalleled diversity in party representation, demonstrating significant democratic progress. This election saw four political parties winning gubernatorial races, seven parties winning senatorial seats, eight in federal constituencies, and nine in state legislatures, illustrating a broad shift in political representation across Nigeria,” he stated.


The report noted that the challenge of uploading the polling unit presidential election results on the IReV after the presidential and NASS elections on February 25, 2023, was unique.


“As voting ended across the country and POs began the process of uploading the images of the PU result sheets of the elections for the various constituencies around 4:00pm, the Commission began to receive reports that attempts to upload presidential election result sheets were failing,” the commission said in the report.


It added that in the troubleshooting process, it was established that there was no issue in uploading the PU result sheets of the Senate and House of Representatives elections through the Election Result Modules.


However, there was a problem with uploading the presidential election results to the system, as attempts to upload the results were generating internal server errors, which refer to a significant impairment that usually originates from within an application due to problems relating to configuration, permissions, or failure to create or access application resources correctly.


The report added that “further interrogation of the election result modules indicated that the system is encountering an unexpected configuration problem in mapping the presidential election results uploaded into the system to the participating polling units.


“Due to the complex, sensitive, and critical nature of the systems and the real potential for malicious cyber attacks, the Commission immediately put in place several strict security and audit control measures to prevent any unfettered or elevated access to the Result Upload System.


“In the process of resolving the challenge, it was discovered that the backend system of the IReV was able to query and detect the base States for uploading the PU result sheets based on the mapping of all Senatorial District and Federal Constituency elections to the respective 36 States of the Federation and the FCT as established in the database structure deployed within the system.


“In configuring and mapping the election results for the presidential and NASS elections, the Commission created 470 election types consisting of one presidential constituency covering the entire country, 109 senatorial districts, and 360 federal constituencies. Each Senatorial District and Federal Constituency election on the database was mapped to their respective states. However, the presidential election result is a single, countrywide constituency and therefore, does not belong to any one state.


“Having identified and established the source of the problem, the Commission quickly created and deployed ‘Hotfixes’, which are software updates for fixing a bug or any vulnerabilities in a system. The deployed hotfixes were eventually resolved. the HTTP error on the system, and the first presidential election result sheet was successfully uploaded at 8.55 on February 25, 2023.


“After the problem with the upload was resolved, the Commission noticed a high volume of uploads on the queue. All results that were scanned but could not be uploaded due to the error were queued, waiting to be automatically processed. Due to the large volume and high traffic from the queue, the system was running slower, even though it tried to scale up automatically to handle the unanticipated heavy traffic. The density of the traffic that slowed the uploads was one issue. Another was that the offline queue requires the BVAS devices to be switched-on and connected to the internet for the upload.


“However, some of the Presiding Officers POs had at the time left their PUs, and the devices had either been switched off or were out of internet coverage. Switched-off devices could not connect and upload the results sheets. The Commission had to reach out to the POs of affected areas to switch-on their systems and ensure internet connectivity for the uploads to continue. This accounted for the delay, with some of the results coming in the next day.


“By and large, the glitch experienced in uploading the scanned images of PU presidential election result sheets on February 25, 2023, was due to the inherent complexity within the system, which was difficult to anticipate and mitigate.


“Thereafter, the Commission has made improvements on the IReV, taken additional steps to build more resilience, and undertook additional checks to ensure the stability and optimal operation and performance of the IReV portal. Additional quality assurance checks are now done to complement the end-to-end testing of the entire result upload ecosystem before the conduct of any election.


“However, the glitch in the upload of the presidential results sheets to iREV did not affect the credibility of the election. Agents of political parties and security agents were given copies of polling station results after they were announced in public. The results were also displayed at polling units for scrutiny by voters. So when they were eventually uploaded, it was easy to compare them with the copies displayed at polling


“The 2023 general election produced the most diverse outcome in recent Nigerian electoral history in terms of party representation in executive and legislative elections nationwide. Thus, four political parties produced state governors, seven secured senatorial seats, eight won federal constituencies, and nine won state seats.


“A granular analysis of the results and performance of the leading parties across the country affirms this diversity.


“Clearly, across the zones, the performance of the four leading parties shows the diversity and subtlety in the results, attesting to the integrity of both the process and outcome,” it added.


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