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Approaches, strategies in election forensics investigations – Part 2

By Oluwatoyin T. Ogundipe and Adebayo Akinade
25 January 2022   |   3:01 am
These reports usually offer an overall, judgment about whether an election was free and fair, which is not necessarily immune to politicization because of the stakes that may be involved.

[files] A voter drops ballot papers into a ballot box during an election in Nigeria.

Continued from yesterday

These reports usually offer an overall, judgment about whether an election was free and fair, which is not necessarily immune to politicization because of the stakes that may be involved.

In-person observation can be a valuable input into assessments of electoral fraud, but rarely offers a comprehensive evaluation of individual contests such as those for specific parliamentary seats.

Meanwhile, the prospect of scholars setting up on-the-ground experimental interventions to address fraud in elections around the world is unrealistic, since this would again, require the necessary access, as well as massive personnel, financial and technological resources.

4.00 Criminal Intelligence Analysts And Election Forensic Investigation
Investigation generates vast amounts of information. The larger the enquiry, the more information the investigator has to deal with. The problem for investigators is that no matter how good the system used to store all this information, they are always limited by their own mental capacity to embrace the information as a whole, to “take it all in” at once.

The core function of the analyst can be broken down into a three-phase process, as follows:
To gather information, understand it and the relevance or relationship of each piece to all of the others.

To develop this information objectively to arrive at an understanding of the whole.

To communicate this understanding to others and so to put the intelligence process to practical use.

The criminal intelligence or criminal investigators operates in collator-style systems used to store and retrieve the information collected about crimes and criminals. As the volume and variety of the information collected expand, the work becomes complex and gradually and more complex systems are introduced to assist with storage and retrieval which result in the introduction of information technology ­ The use of Information Technology for the storage and retrieval of crime information has a notable success. (Andrews, Paul P. Jr., 1990)

The operational criminal investigator should operate the tools of information technology meant for the task of recording and collating criminal information. Information must be properly evaluated before it can be acted upon. The value of criminal intelligence can be enhanced further by analysis. When available intelligence is too complex and large in volume for simple action, it must be analysed in order to obtain meaningful results.

Criminal Intelligence Analysis (CIA) is a philosophy, which sets out how we can approach the investigation of crime and criminals by using the intelligence and information collected­ concerning them. It provides techniques that structure the natural deductive powers and thought process, the “natural intuition”, which proficient investigators use subconsciously all the time. It also provides tools that help us to understand the information collected, and communicate that understanding to others. (Hanson, Robert C., 1977)

Intelligence Analysis and Organised Crime
The advent of criminal intelligence analysis is directly linked to the transformation of individual crime into organised or group crime. The effective use of intelligence is crucial to a law enforcement­ agency’s ability to combat criminal groups. Intelligence analysis also provides the agency with the knowledge required for effective management of its resources. With appropriate tasking, the products of intelligence analysis can assist in developing strategic plans to tackle current problems and prepare for future anticipated ones. (Frost, Charles C., 1985)

The Intelligence Process
The word intelligence can be used to describe the process of interpreting information to give it a meaning. It has also been used to describe a group or department that gathers or deals with such information or to describe the product of such activity or department. Intelligence might be described as processed information. Narrowed down to law enforcement use, “intelligence” could be described as information that is acquired, exploited and protected by the activities of law enforcement institutions to decide upon and support criminal investigations. (Godfrey, E. and Don R. Harris C., 1971)

Intelligence: Knowledge (Processed Information) Designed For Action
Intelligence always involves a degree of interpretation resulting in an inevitable degree of speculation ­ and risk. The amount of speculation and risk is dependent upon the quality and quantity of information.

Intelligence is usually divided into two main areas:
Strategic intelligence: Focuses on the long-term aims of law enforcement agencies. It typically reviews current and emerging trends changes in the crime environment, threats to public safety and order, opportunities for controlling the action and the development of counter programmes and likely avenues for change to policies, programmes and legislation.

Operational intelligence: Operational intelligence provides an investigative team with hypotheses and inferences concerning specific elements of illegal operations of any sort. These will include hypotheses ­ and inferences about specific criminal networks, individuals or groups involved in unlawful activities, discussing their methods, capabilities, vulnerabilities, limitations and intentions that could be used for effective law enforcement action. (Surll, Van, David S., 1980)

A good knowledge of operational intelligence is a highly recommended pre­requisite to developing strategic intelligence capability. The development of operational intelligence in itself will provide an important source of intelligence to consider from a strategic perspective. (Diamund 1994)

Intelligence and Evidence
It is important to emphasise that a State’s National Legislation will dictate the way intelligence can be used for law enforcement purposes. The process of intelligence gathering in relation to a specific investigation is usually a prelude to any evidence-gathering phase. Legislation will also dictate whether intelligence material gathered during the course of an investigation is protected from disclosure in criminal proceedings.

5.00 The Role For Election Forensics
As useful as any existing method may be, none meet all of the ideal criteria outlined in the previous section. In this regard new and developing methods in election forensics offer tools that can conceivably meet all of our ideal criteria. Scholars in the field of election forensics have been developing techniques designed to detect the presence of fraud or malfeasance in an election, and estimate its magnitude, based on characteristics of the reported results. Some of the election forensic methods adopt techniques similar to those developed by those seeking to detect financial fraud. One basic idea the methods share is that numbers manipulated by humans typically have patterns of digits that are unlikely to have arisen through a “natural” process- such as a free and fair election or normal commercial transactions. In essence, numeric manipulations (frauds) tend to leave distinctive traces. If election results have unnatural patterns, those anomalies should be detectable using statistical techniques.

Relative to existing approaches, election forensics methods have at, least three key advantages. They are as follows:

(i) Election forensics relies on reported election results, disaggregated to the level of electoral constituencies, precincts, and/or polling stations. These results are “objective” in the sense that they are used exactly as reported forensic methods analyze the official record, which is the public basis of election outcomes. By contrast, the observations and judgments of individual election monitors, country experts or assessment teams can be (or be accused of being) selective and subjective.

(ii) Election forensics allows for the systematic analysis of all reported votes from all contests in all localities even those locations where observers do not have access for political, security or logistical reasons.

(iii) Election forensics produces estimates of fraud that include information about the confidence of conclusions, as opposed to observations methods that lack these metrics beyond some vague expression of certainty vs. uncertainty, which may not be well-founded.

To be continued tomorrow
Professor or Barrister Akinade or