Cost of Elections: INEC To Pilot Electronic Voting Machines in 2021


BY AMOS DUNIA, ABUJA – The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has resolved to use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) at the earliest time possible as part of its desire towards the implementation of full introduction of electronic voting in major elections in 2021.

The Commission said that it recognized the critical role that ICT will play in an electoral process that is being vastly reshaped by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the growing demands by Nigerians for the deepening of the use of technology in elections.

These were part of the policy document titled “Policy on Conducting Elections in the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic” signed by INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, that was made public on Monday.

INEC however explained that the pilot scheme would not be used for Edo and Ondo governorship elections scheduled for September 19 and October 10, 2020 respectively.

The INEC Chairman also said that the decision to suspend the Continuous Registration of Voters (CVR) for the time being is aimed at preventing the health risks associated with it in the context of COVID-19.

Yakubu said the Commission would continue to make available its electronic channels for voters to check their registration status.

According to Yakubu; “Consequently, the Commission shall continue to apply relevant, value-for-money technology in all aspects of the electoral process and election management.

“The policy also includes the creation of e-platforms for certain INEC activities, including accreditation of observer groups and deployment of their field observers.”

The INEC boss further said that activities to be conducted online include submission of nomination forms by political parties for candidates, tracking and reporting of campaigns and campaign finance by/for candidates and political parties and submission of party agents’ lists by political parties.

Yakubu explained that in accreditation and deployment of observers, INEC shall request and receive applications for election observation exclusively through online, adding that there would be reduction in the number of accredited observer groups based on past performance and compliance with the Commission’s guidelines for election observation.

According to the INEC Chairman; “This is to reduce crowding and therefore health risks at election venues as well as reduce the number of field observers.

Commenting on health related issues, the INEC boss said that in order to protect voters, election officials and other stakeholders in the electoral process, the electoral body shall carry out some measures that include supply and use of infrared thermometers at the Registration Area Collation Centres, the Local Government Area Collation Centres and the State Collation Centres.

Yakubu further said; “The use of face masks is mandatory for all involved in the election process and must be worn at all election locations. The Commission shall provide face masks for all election officials and Alcohol-based hand sanitizers will be provided for election officials at the polling units.

“Methylated Spirit and cotton wool will be provided for the disinfection of the Smart Card Readers (SCRs) after the fingerprint of each voter is read.

“The rules of physical distancing shall be enforced at all election activities including stakeholder engagements, training, queuing at Polling Units, amongst others,” Yakubiu said.

He assured that INEC would work with the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 and other health authorities in order to have in place a system of voluntary Coronavirus testing for for the Commission’s staff before and after deploying for elections.

Yakubu also said that the Commission shall work with the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and health authorities in the states having elections to develop a protocol for dealing with persons who show symptoms of COVID-19 at election venues.

In his words; “Where an election official, a voter or any other person present at an election venue shows symptoms of COVID-19, the prevailing protocol shall be observed; the person must be isolated from other persons at the venue; the attention of the security personnel should be drawn. “The dedicated number for COVID–19 emergencies shall be called and if the affected person is an election official, the Commission must be notified through the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC).”

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