As part of the preparations towards the forthcoming elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission disclosed last week that it is working towards the amendment of the legal framework that would enable electronic voting. Stressing the commission’s commitment to introducing electronic voting machines in the electoral process to replace the manual system that had INEC under heavy logistics burden, including the printing of electoral papers and hiring of thousands of ad hoc staff, among others, Festus Okoye, INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee; further stated that the Commission has commenced the analysis of the various electronic voting machines showcased by over 50 companies. BARBARA NEGBEJIE seeks the views of select Nigerians.
‘Even with the electronic voting, there are still issues such as hacking, the integrity of the voting machine vendors, among others by nations that adopted it’
The main purpose of Electoral Act in any nation is for the general conduct of election, it helps to strengthen internal democracy, reduce cost of politics and broaden political participation. As is it now, the introduction of the card reader where a candidate is accredited to vote is yet to be part of our electoral act and as such, the failure of the card reader machine or failure to use it cannot invalidate the election. This Act according to our lawmakers seeks to fulfill this purpose and much more. Let’s look at the highlight of the Electoral Act: The proposed amendment seeks to penalise any INEC official who knowingly refuses to disclose his political affiliation before being employed by the commission. The penalty is a fine of N5 million, an imprisonment of at least five years or both. The amended version includes a new subsection (2) which makes postponement of election unnecessary once there is at least one valid nomination by a political party. Section 44, which stipulates that INEC must ensure the ballot papers contain the symbols of the political parties. Similarly, there is section 49, which addresses the issues of ballot paper, confirmation of voters’ name. The amended version recommends the use of card reader and other technological devices in elections. There is section 53, which addressees the question of over –voting and stipulates that results of a polling unit where the number of voters exceed the voting strength, should be declared null and void. It is a norm all over the world that when elections reflect the wish of the electorate, it is deemed to be free, fair and credible. Put in another way, when each process is open to scrutiny and all parties can confirm the procedure, it is credible but can we say the proposed electoral bill amendment has answers to all our concerns? Unfortunately, the answer is ‘no.’ Even with the electronic voting, there are still issues experienced by nations that adopted it, issues such as hacking, the integrity of the voting machine vendors, election management system computers, who has the remote access to the central computer, among others which we might not be adequately ready to tackle now but comparing it to manual voting is like chalk and cheese. Globally, different trends are seen in different regions with regards to electoral system- each region designs what suit her purpose. While a total acceptance of electronic voting may be a herculean task for us but we can at least begin somewhere. United States mechanical lever voting machines were first used for elections in 1892 that is about 127 years ago. The real question is, when would the indelible ink put on our fingerprints become obsolete? At the moment, it is not possible for the entire registration, accreditation, vote counting, collation and announcement to be done electronically but we can at least transmit electronically. We must not only enthusiastically adopt the 4th Industrial Revolution but mimic the Electoral success of Nations that have zipped Election Malpractices. When our leaders have expedite action with regards to straightening our electoral process, they can proudly look back in few years to come by saying that they were part of the system that ensure that all eligible voters can log into a computer terminal from the nooks and crannies of their houses to cast their vote and we can all say bye to the nuisances of looking for polling location for hours and don’t have to wait forlornly
‘Every attempt must be made to prevent its abuses and manipulations by our politicians and political actors’
I am in support of INEC’s move as Electronic voting increases the level of electoral participation, accessibility, precision, security, efficiency and reliability. However, in doing this, every attempt must be made to ensure that the act has the necessary ‘safeguards’, to prevent its abuses and manipulations by our politicians and political actors.
‘I think it is a very good idea and it will be for the conveniences of all Nigerians’
Although the INEC has the power to conduct voter and civil education, so far so good, we have been going to polling unit to vote manually, due to this system it is not everybody that go out to vote, because some people find it difficult to go to pulling unit, especially the fear of violence that may occur which has really prevented some people from voting, secondly, not everybody that have voter’s card too. So now, if the INEC is seeking for the electoral Act amendment, which is the constitution guiding to enact a law that will allow for electronic voting, I think it is a very good idea and it will be for the conveniences of all Nigerians.
‘With the introduction of electronic voting, election result will be accurate and almost foolproof’
Since 2015, Nigerian election has been marred with electoral fraud ranging from double voting, over voting, stolen identity, stealing of ballot boxes amid so much violence which has made the populace lose faith in the electoral system. However, with the amendment of the electoral law which INEC seeking to allow the introduction of electronic voting (e-voting), the result will be accurate and almost be foolproof; having a better reflection of the people’s choice. There will be an increased voter turn-out, a sharp reduction in the cost of electoral materials and minimal cost of voting and eliminate ballot waste. By so doing, the voters’ confidence will be restored once again
‘It will automatically give 100% room to unqualified citizens to cast their votes’
My candid opinion to this new approach to voting is NO. NO, to me, because that will automatically give 100% room to unqualified citizens to cast their votes. So it’s not a welcomed idea at all, they should go back to the drawing board and device a more sensible and reasonable approach.