On July 15, 2021, the Nigerian Senate passed the Electoral Amendment Bill amidst rancour, prompting some senators to stage a walkout over disagreements about the electronic transmission of election results; The area of disagreement revolved around voting and collation of results
At the sitting, the senate empowered the Nigerian Communications Commission and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to decide on the usage of electronic transmission of election results.
The senate’s position did not sit well with the majority of Nigerians, who saw it as an infringement on the constitution, which mandates that INEC run elections independently of other government organisations.
In light of this, influential personalities, civil society organizations, the media, and independent groups pressed the Senate to reconsider, specifically how election results should be transmitted.
After a thorough study of the Bill by the Senate and in response to people’s demands, the Upper Chamber approved that voting and transmission of results shall be conducted in line with INEC-determined procedures, which may include electronic voting.
Additionally, certain provisions of the amendment state that a presiding officer shall transmit results, including the total number of accredited voters and the ballot outcomes, in the manner stipulated by the commission.
The Senate’s current position aligns with the House of Representatives, which had previously passed its own version allowing INEC to choose where and when electronic voting and transmission of results should take place.
It is critical to remember that electronic voting and results transmission are not novel concepts in Nigeria’s electoral system. For example, on two occasions, the Kaduna State Independent Electoral Commission conducted local government elections using electronic voting and transmission of results. Local and international observers who monitored the election attested to the process’s credibility.
According to the constitution, INEC is empowered to conduct national elections in Nigeria and has often stated that they were prepared for electronic transmission of results, with the required infrastructure in place and advancements in software technology.
The combination of biometric voter’s cards, commonly referred to as Permanent Voter’s Cards and the Smart Card Reader, which altered the pattern of voter accreditation during elections, are excellent examples of this.
Additionally, the timely posting of results from polling stations to a public portal on Election Day increases transparency in the electoral process.
As a matter of fact, the adoption of modern technologies in advanced democracies has increased the security and integrity of elections, as well as shortened bureaucratic bottlenecks associated with late results release. Electronic voting is used in Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Curacao, Mexico, Namibia, Haiti, the Philippines, the United States of America and Venezuela.
Human error is reduced, which boosts voter turnout and reduces costs; it also reduces ballot waste and improves voters’ convenience.
The fiat accomplished in advanced democracies can be replicated in Nigeria, based on the NCC’s internet penetration rate, which is currently over 50% as of January 2021, with over 90% of the total population having access to mobile phones.
Based on this, experts believe that electronic transmission of results is perfectly doable.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s assent to the Electoral Amendment Bill will further instil greater confidence in voters, as they would know for certain that their ballots will be counted in future elections.
Written By Innocent Ogbanje of our Kaduna Zonal Station; Editing by Saadatu Albashir