INEC Rules out Electronic Voting until Constitution is Amended

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Chuks Okocha in Abuja

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday clarified that there cannot be any electronic voting in Nigeria until the 1999 Constitution as amended is further amended to authorise it.
The commission also said the COVID-19 pandemic had increased the cost of elections in the country and conversely reduced sources of government revenue.

It, however, promised to find a balance between the increased cost of elections and reduced revenue to conduct the Edo and Ondo States governorship elections.

Reacting to reports that the commission will introduce electronic voting with the Anambra State governorship election in 2021, the Chief Press Secretary to the INEC chairman, Mr. Rotimi Oyekanmi, said in a statement that INEC had no such plans.

“What the policy says under “ICT and Voter Registration” (Roman figure v – page 12) is that INEC will pilot the use of electronic voting at the earliest possible time (not Edo and Ondo), but work towards the full introduction of electronic voting in major elections starting from 2021.

“The key words here are pilot, work and towards,” he stated.
He said these connoted a different meaning from the headlines in some media reports yesterday.
A section of the media while reporting the release of guidelines for the Edo and Ondo States’ governorship elections later this year, had said INEC would test run electronic voting for election in 2021.

“As we all know, INEC cannot unilaterally introduce electronic voting because our constitution does not allow/recognise it. That’s why we said we will work towards the full introduction of e-voting,” he added.
The commission said it was unfortunate that some newspapers gave a different interpretation to the particular aspect of the guidelines.

Also, INEC National Commissioner in charge of Voter Education and Public Information, Mr. Festus Okoye, told THISDAY that the COVID-19 pandemic had increased the cost of elections and reduced government revenues.

He said: “No doubt, this pandemic has increased the cost of conducting elections. There are additional costs in terms of responsibilities. During elections, a coaster bus carries up to 40 electoral personnel, but now it has to reduce to seven and this is an additional financial burden. We have to provide protective equipment to election staff and hand sanitisers as well as facial masks. All these mean extra funding.

“But much as we recognise that there is extra funding, we are going to use electronics services; this will reduce some costs. National commissioners go for electoral duties by air; this time around, they may use electronic devices to do some of the works.

“Doing the works electronically could reduce the high cost of the elections. Like in the proposed meetings with stakeholders, the commission could conduct some of the scheduled activities electronically and this would reduce the expected cost of the election.”