The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says it would work towards implementing full introduction of electronic voting in major elections in Nigeria starting from 2021.
The commission stated this on Monday in its 17-paged policy document on conducting elections in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, signed by its chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, and made available to journalists in Abuja.
INEC noted that one of the highlights of the document was how to explore the use of electronic and non-contact means to recruit ad hoc staff beginning with the governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states scheduled for September 19 and October 10, 2020 respectively.
This was even as it announced plans to leverage on the technology to shrink movement of its staff so as to reduce spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
The document also expressed the commission’s readiness to engage with the National Assembly and other stakeholders to explore ways of responding to the rising cost of conducting frequent bye-elections in Nigeria.
It added that the commission would “pilot the use of Electronic Voting Machines 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 document read: “The commission will engage with the legislature and other stakeholders to explore ways of responding to the rising cost of conducting frequent bye-elections, especially in consideration of the Supreme Court position that votes belong primarily to political parties, as well as the Commission’s records, which show that only in 10 per cent of all bye-elections since 2015 did the party that won originally lose the election.
“The commission will engage relevant authorities, including the legislature, to designate election as an essential service to enable the commission function effectively in times of national emergency.
“The commission shall revamp its election planning and implementation-monitoring processes in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Consequently, the commission in planning elections shall respond to the growing demand for deepening the use of technology in the electoral processes, including the introduction of electronic voting.”
The document added: “The commission will ensure the use of electronic and non-contact means to recruit ad hoc staff by deploying its INECPres portal, as well as in notifying ad hoc staff of invitations and postings (for example, use of SMS) to prevent large gatherings at INEC offices during staff deployment.
“The Electoral Operations and Logistics Department will harvest all past ad hoc staff from its databases and send to each State preparing for elections.
“All ad hoc staff databases in the commission will be harmonised for better management. To reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19, the commission shall reduce, to a minimum interstate movement of staff, including ad hoc staff, for off-season and bye-elections.
“The rule shall be that only shortfalls requested by the States are filled from outside the state. As much as possible, all election staff will be sourced in-state.
“In view of the COVID-19 pandemic, the commission shall encourage political parties to develop appropriate guidelines and regulations for conduct of party primaries that take into account the COVID-19 prevention protocols.”