by Akan Ido
The 2015 election is firmly in focus with several political parties jostling to be in poll position for the contest which promises to be a defining one in the history of the country.
But the elections can not be conducted fairly without a prepared Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the umpire saddled with the responsibility of delivering on a free and fair elections.
The Chief Press Secretary to the Chairman of the INEC, Kayode Idowu, in this Punch Newspapers interview, describes the voting process in the 2015 general elections.
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How would you react to the calls for electronic voting in the 2015 general elections?
The call is welcome because the INEC, in its proposal to the National Assembly, canvassed a change in sections of the Electoral Act that stipulate manual procedures of elections. That is why we canvassed for a change in Sections 48, 49, 50, 52, 54, 55 and 60 in the Act because INEC wants a situation where it will be at liberty to determine the procedures to be used for elections.
But some opposition parties have faulted electronic systems saying it might be susceptible to manipulation.
I don’t know what they mean. From what I have said, what INEC is looking at is to be given the liberty to determine the procedure to be adopted in the election, based on its judgement of a particular situation or a particular terrain. What happened in Ghana was not electronic voting. What happened in Ghana was verification of voters. With or without a change in the law, INEC has already adopted the policy to do 100 per cent authentication and verification in 2015 because we do not believe that constitutes need electronic voting. INEC had already decided that it will do the authentication and verification, using machines that will swipe the permanent voter card. That is what Ghana did; they still use physical ballot papers and ballot boxes, and the people still cast their ballots in the boxes.
INEC’s position is that, let the commission be at liberty to be able to determine that if Nigeria should need electronic voting, it will be the decision of the INEC; if it’s manual voting, it should be the decision of the INEC, based on its understanding of the challenges of the terrain.
For the 2015 elections, how will the process look like?
It is not fully electronic; we are going to do verification and authentication. We do not believe that to be electronic voting. We are going to use card readers for the verification and authentication of voters. We do not take that to be electronic because ballot papers would still be used.
There were technical challenges during the nationwide voter registration exercise, how will the commission handle the verification exercise to forestall a recurrence?
During the registration process, there were technical challenges but those challenges were addressed. That was why we were able to register 73.5 million people in 21 days. Those challenges were resolved. In Ghana, there were technical challenges but they had elections. Yes, challenges will arise but they will be addressed; that will be no hindrance to the process.
What are the benefits of the electronic authentication and verification exercise?
The first benefit is that you will be sure – 100 per cent – that the person that brings a voter card to the polling booth is the person that will cast the ballot. You will be sure because in the permanent voter card, we have embedded chips that the machine will read and ensure that the person that brought it (voter card) is the legitimate owner of the card.
The second benefit is that since only the person that owns the card can use the card, there will be no room for multiple voting. Once your card is swiped and read, you cannot use it more than once; there will be no multiple voting.
The third is that people buying voter cards cannot use them because if you buy or steal a voter card, you can only deny the person you bought his voter card from voting; you cannot use the card for anything.
What happens where a voter goes to a polling booth without his/her voter card but has his/her photograph and details in the register?
By law, if you do not have a voter card, you do not have a business at the polling booth. Whether your name is in the register or not, if you do not have your voter card, you have no business showing up. The condition of the law is that you must have your voter card and your name must be in the register. It is not sufficient that your name is in the register you don’t have your card.