A history of vote manipulation entrenched in people’s memories, lack of transparency of election monitoring bodies and corruption all influence people’s trust in the system and many are afraid when casting their vote, the researchers found.
But what worries people the most is the counting of votes, Penar says, with 38% of Africans believing votes are only sometimes, or even never counted.
Vote counts can be tampered with in many ways, according to Penar.
“[This happens] at the polling stations. Stuffing ballots, double voting, multiple voting.”
Methods for swaying voters may also include threats, actual violence and bribery.
How much for your vote?
Bribery is commonplace in some countries, the study showed.
The practice is illegal, and so rather than asking people whether they have accepted bribes, researchers posed the more indirect question of how often people in the country face bribery around election time.
On average, 43% of Africans said people are often or always bribed, with nearly 70% saying voters were bribed at least sometimes.
Some countries returned startlingly high numbers. In Mali, 78% of people said voters were often or always bribed, and in Senegal the figure was 68%.
The bribes may range from giving a little money at the polling stations to being offered seeds or medicines during campaigns, Penar says.
Threats of violence at the polls
Voter intimidation is also key, the researchers found, with 44% of those surveyed saying they are sometimes, often or always threatened with violence when voting.
“That’s incredibly high,” says Penar.