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INEC Set for Electron­ic Voting from 2021

The Independent National Elec­toral Commission (INEC) has unveiled a policy document for the conduct of elections under the COVID-19 pandemic, giving impetus to the use of ICT and technology while reducing face-to-face contact as much as possible in various as­pects of the process.
While recognising that full scale deployment of technology and elec­tronic voting was not feasible in the scheduled Edo and Ondo governor­ship elections, the policy set an am­bitious target to migrate to electron­ic voting in 2021, starting with the Anambra State gubernatorial poll.
To this end, INEC said it would begin the pilot trial of elec­tronic voting machine as part of its policy to deploy value-for-money technology in all aspects of the electoral process, preparatory to “the full introduction of electron­ic voting in major elections, starting from 2021”.
The commission, accord­ing to the policy released on Monday, also announced the suspension of the Continu­ous Registration of Voters (CVR) “for the time being to prevent the health risks asso­ciated with it in the context of COVID-19”.
In line with the pandemic policy framework, INEC said it would review its election information kits and expand the Inter Agency Consulta­tive Committee on Election Security (ICCES) to include the Nigeria Centre for Dis­ease Control (NCDC), the National Orientation Agen­cy (NOA), and other relevant health bodies on a temporary basis.
It promised to develop a Voter Code of Conduct (VCC) detailing how voters must conduct themselves during elections in the context of the pandemic.
As part of the COVID-19 policy, INEC has mandated its state offices to work with local health authorities to do a health assessment of upcom­ing elections in Edo and Ondo immediately.
They would also main­stream COVID-19 in its elec­tion risk mapping tools like the Election Risk Manage­ment (ERM) and Election Violence Mitigation and Ad­vocacy Tool (EVMAT), while ensuring that Pre-Election Preparation (PEP) activities are conducted online.
It added: “Where face-to-face activities become necessary, the protocols for COVID-19 prevention should be followed.”
The states were also en­joined to conduct a pilot poll on the changes to the elec­toral process in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic in a bye-election prior to the Edo and Ondo governorship elec­tions in order to learn lessons where necessary.
Also, INEC said it would adopt electronic platforms for the submission of nom­ination forms by political parties in the Edo and Ondo governorship elections.
In the policy document signed by Mahmood Yaku­bu, its chairman, INEC said during the elections in Edo and Ondo scheduled for Sep­tember and October, face masks would be made com­pulsory for voters, electoral officials, and everyone else at all election locations.
It said the polling unit ar­eas shall be redesigned to en­sure substantial compliance with established protocols such as social distancing.
“In order to accommodate additional activities in setting up the PU due to COVID-19, polls shall now commence at 8:30a.m and close at 2:30p.m,” the commission said, add­ing that personal protective equipment and other safety materials shall be provided for polling staff.
It said infrared thermom­eters would be used at the various collation centres, al­cohol-based hand sanitisers at the polling units for election officials while methylated spirit and cotton wool would be provided for the disinfec­tion of the smart card readers after the fingerprint of each voter is read.
An Electoral Act Amend­ment Bill seeking to make e-voting compulsory in elec­tions passed for second read­ing at the Senate in November.

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