Electronic voting: INEC test-runs machines, civil societies call for new electoral act

The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has adopted going by automated voting system and started the replacement of the current manual means.

The INEC Chairman, Prof. Yakubu Mahmood, disclosed this on Monday in Abuja, saying that the commission had taken another bold step towards the full actualization of electronic voting system during elections.

His words: "After extensive discussion and review, the commission took the decision to invite original manufacturers of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) around the world for a virtual or practical demonstration of the machines.

“Over the years, the commission has been automating the critical pillars of the process. The biometric register of voters has been updated continuously. At the moment, the INEC register of voters is the largest data base of citizens in Nigeria.

“In addition, the combination of biometric voters’ cards, commonly known as the Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC) and the Smart Card Reader (SCR), have revolutionised the accreditation of voters during elections. More recently, the introduction of a number of portals has facilitated the seamless nomination of candidates for elective offices by political parties as well as the accreditation of observers and the media.

“Most significantly, the commission now uploads polling unit level results in real-time on Election Day to a portal for public view. These are significant innovations that have deepened the transparency and credibility of elections and the electoral process in Nigeria", 
He added: “Today, the commission is taking yet another decisive step towards the full automation of the electoral process. For some time now, the commission has been working on the deployment of technology in voting during elections to replace the current manual system, which is tedious and requires enormous logistics to deliver huge quantities of printed materials and a large number of ad hoc workers to administer the process.

“To this end, the commission developed the specifications of the functions required of the machine. After extensive discussion and review, the commission took the decision to invite original manufacturers of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) around the world for a virtual or practical demonstration of the machines.

“Over 40 companies that indicated interest will demonstrate to the commission how their IT solutions meet our specifications.

“I wish to emphasise that this is only a demonstration that will enable the commission to evaluate the available technology and, where necessary, fine-tune our specifications before proceeding to the next stage, which will involve the participation of stakeholders. Details of the next steps will be given at the end of the demonstrations.

“The commission is aware that Nigerians want us to deepen the use of technology in elections. Let me reassure Nigerians that the commission is committed to expediting the process leading to the deployment of EVMs in elections in earnest.”

Nevertheless, a group of Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, equally urged the National Assembly not to disappoint Nigerians on the expected legislative process to review the nation’s Constitution and electoral reforms, NATIONAL PANEL gathered.

While briefing journalists on behalf of other Civil Society Organisations in Abuja, Banke Ilori Oyeniyi, of Raising New Voices Initiative, said there is need to curb incessant violence and voter suppression, which in her words, have marred the conduct of elections, making it to be as if it is a standard practice in the country.

She further said that Nigeria’s elections have witnessed inadequate improvements for a growing democracy, in the face of electoral fraud, violence, voter inducement, intimidation, bribery and corruption.

"Nigeria’s electoral process has become a shadow of itself and inspires very little hope and confidence for the future.

“It is noteworthy that the National Assembly has already commenced work on the Electoral Amendment Bill. We have more than enough reasons to believe that the process has not been given the urgency, seriousness and attention that it deserves,” she hinted.

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