Elections are a process through which people decide their representatives in a democratic system of government. It is no news to an average student of the University of Ibadan that the Students’ Union is a body of student representatives who are a vital link between the student populace and the administration of the university. However, student unionism is voluntary, which means that not all students are mandated to be members of the Students’ Union or to participate in union activities such as the election of student representatives. While this can encourage political apathy among students, students might need to think twice before deciding not to participate in student unionism as the decisions of the student representatives affect the student body in general. Political apathy or disinterest in Union activities is synonymous with abandoning decisions that can affect one’s studentship.
Elections are determinators in a democratic system. It has been established that voter fraud, vote manipulation, and other issues that can undermine the democratic process have a considerable influence on voter turnout for elections. In the same vein, information also has an important role to play in determining voter turnout and the attitude of the electorate toward elections. Technology has presented itself as a two-sided coin that can handle information spread and present electronic voting as a solution to vote manipulation. On the other hand, the other side of the coin which cannot be ignored is the misuse of technology which can undermine the democratic process it presents itself as a solution. This is where the role of an average Uite comes in.
An average Uite has a smartphone, is active on one or more social media platforms, makes use of the internet, shares and receives information daily through the use of technology. With the alarming increase in misinformation, disinformation, fake news, and propaganda, it can be very easy to form wrong opinions based on false information. Therefore, being a critical and selective consumer of information is very important to avoid getting misinformed, manipulated, or overwhelmed by the abundance of information that will be available about candidates and the electoral process.
Also, technology through online voting makes voters registration and education easy. Potential voters can easily fill out online forms to register to vote in an election. Voter education can also be easily done through mock elections conducted before the main election, and such mock elections serve as a test run of the electronic voting system in preparation for the main election. They also serve as a tool to increase voter awareness which leads to an increase in voter turnout for elections.
Moreso, technology can give room for electronic voting systems which can reduce errors, increase accuracy and make it easier for people to exercise their franchise using mobile devices. Cryptography can be utilized for the encrypting of votes and digital ballot boxes, ensuring votes and software are unmodified, verifying voters’ identity before each voter casts a ballot, and assisting in auditing and tallying election results. This will build and increase the trust of students in the democratic process and encourage more students to participate in the elections, with an assurance that their information is secure and their votes will truly count.
In addition to the numerous advantages of technology is the platform it gives to both the candidates for political offices and potential voters to interact easily. Just as candidates can utilize various social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as essential campaign tools; the electorate can also use the same platforms and the internet to get information about the candidates by interacting with them, asking them questions and doing personal research about each candidate contesting for each of the political offices available in the executive and legislative arms of the student union government. With the appropriate use of technology, information about the previous performances of any candidate in any post they might have held before can be accessed and scrutinized by members of the electorate and such information can influence their choice of candidates to cast their votes for.
In conclusion, it is indisputable that technology is a game changer in the history of elections, and the University of Ibadan cannot be left out of this development. Technology not only ensures a smooth electoral process, but it also helps to reduce the cost of electoral campaigns and presents easier and faster information circulation, and provides a voting system based on transparency. Technology, therefore, promotes political participation and an increase in voter turnout due to the ease of participation.