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E-voting and Nigeria’s electoral system

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E-voting and Nigeria’s electoral system

 

The e-voting otherwise known as electronic voting is a kind of voting that involves using electronic system to cast and count votes usually with the aid of an Electronic Voting Machine (EVM).

It is of two main types: the one physically supervised by representatives of the electoral umpire and the remote e-voting whereby votes are cast via the internet from any location. The former requires the EVM whilst the latter could be done with one’s personal computer.

 

The merits of e-voting cannot be overemphasized. It enables vote to be cast with ease. It increases the speed of voting. It is cost effective. In other words, it tremendously reduces the cost of conducting an election by engaging only a few electoral officials rather than in the case of manual voting system that requires much manpower.

 

It can provide an improved accessibility for the electorate that are physically challenged, thereby enabling them to participate actively at the polls. It’s transparent because it can easily be observed by anyone present at the polling unit. It helps to reduce human error to a great extent. It makes the election results to be announced faster than expected, thus building trust.

 

Among all, e-voting is auditable with the assistance of Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT). The EVM prints a paper receipt each time a vote is cast electronically. This makes it easy to perform recounts and audits because one can compare the electronic count with the paper count. Owing to the overall gains and effects of electronic voting, it increases turnout and engagement among the electorate.

 

On Saturday, May 12, Kaduna State under the watch of Governor Nasir el-Rufai made history by conducting its local government (LG) polls with the aid of e-voting system as planned by the Kaduna State Independent Electoral Commission (KADSIECOM).

 

It was, however, reported that some of the EVMs malfunctioned in some polling units while some were made away by hoodlums to unknown destinations. The machine error was blamed on various factors such as power supply, technical hitches and ignorance on the part of the operators.

 

El-Rufai testified that human error was recorded during the exercise, though claimed that the EVMs performed perfectly as anticipated. In his statewide address while being interviewed by newsmen after the polls, he said: “Only human error was recorded. All the electronic voting machines functioned perfectly. We shall investigate the cause of the human error.”

 

The outcome of the LG polls in their totality signifies that we still have a long way to go as regards electronic voting. It was gathered that some of the EVMs malfunctioned even as the governor claimed that they all performed excellently. The diverse reactions trailing the functionality of the EVMs used at the polls are good reasons to note that the system isn’t yet ripe for the practice.

 

We have equally learnt that some of the EVMs were carted away by thugs in the process. This particular loophole implies that adequate security wasn’t on ground to safeguard the polling units and the sensitive materials, or perhaps the security personnel compromised their obligations.

 

The above revelation raises another room for great worry as regards the quest for deployment of the e-voting pattern in the Nigeria’s electoral system, hence the need to critically look into it.

 

It was further alleged that the returning officers in charge of the various LGAs vanished into thin air after concluding the elections. It’s imperative to acknowledge that the so-called returning officers have a thousand and one questions to answer if the required investigations must be carried out by the concerned authority as well as towards averting such embarrassment in the future.

As I appreciate El-rufai for giving us the prototype of how the e-voting would look like if the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) eventually adopts it for the Nigeria’s political sphere, it’s my pleasure to notify the commission that if well prepared, the country can really get it right.

Since we have observed lapses bordering on ignorance in the use of tech devices, thuggery and insecurity, there’s absolutely no need to suggest to the INEC on what needs to be done towards ensuring that the e-voting system is aptly implemented for future elections.
Since time is apparently against the INEC regarding the fast approaching 2019 polls, Nigeria as a country ought to right now consider making use of the e-voting system during the 2023 general elections.

The commission must hold the bull by the horn with a view to ensuring that the needful is done without further procrastination. As the world is already engulfed in technologies and every facet of the global community gradually becoming digitally-inclined, the electoral umpire needn’t shy away from taking into cognizance that it’s time the Nigerian state inculcated e-voting into its electoral mechanism.

Hence, I want to believe that the recently passed Electoral Act, as amended, by the National Assembly recognizes the e-voting pattern. A separate section needs to painstakingly highlight the clauses that would guarantee the sustainability of the policy. If it doesn’t, there’s still need for further amendment in earnest.

On its part, the INEC needs to consequently set up a special unit to be manned by qualified and uncompromising tech experts that would see to the apt implementation cum sustenance of the measure.

Above all, it’s noteworthy that the said unit can’t perform as expected if it fails to continually extend hand of fellowship to the cognoscenti. Think about it!

 

 

•Nwaozor, a policy analyst, writes via: frednwaozor@gmail.com

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