Legislative and Democratic Studies’ Institute Generates Discussions on Early Voting System in Nigeria’s General Elections
Experts have almost reached a consensus on the fact that majority of eligible electorates are often unwilling to participate in elections mainly because of the conventional practice that requires voters to stand in line for hours as evidenced by less than 50% voter turnout in 2015 presidential election in Nigeria. Noting also that in every Election Day, several eligible voters are disenfranchised due to the nature of their duties or assignments. They exposed that in 2015 more than 2 million eligible voters were disenfranchised because they were on essential duties on the days of elections.
According to them, research shows that this number of voters is more than the registered voters in so many States like Bayelsa and Ekiti that have 610,373 and 732,021 registered voters respectively.
It is against this backdrop that that the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS) on Wednesday, December 12, 2019 engaged Social Media Influencers and members of the Civil Society Organizations to a hangout with the Director General, Prof. Ladi Hamalai to deliberate and proffer feasible solutions to the issues surrounding early voting, electoral inclusion and high voters turnout, which deals with the need to allow people exercise their franchise, no matter their locations.
During the interactive hangout, the DG of the Institute, Prof. Hamalai expressed concern about essential workers like journalists, electoral officials, security personnel who are likely to be disenfranchised in elections, including 16, 000 electoral officials and 1 million ad hoc staff; 371,800 Police Officers, most of whom are deployed to provide security during elections; 45,000 regular staff and 160,000 volunteers of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSDC); others are Military personnel, domestic observer groups, journalists and media crews; prisoners; medical officials; and people with disabilities.
At the end of the roundtable discussion, participants appreciated the need to adopt early voting system in Nigeria, said it would increase voter turnout in subsequent general elections. “We need early voting system, but we can also raise our electoral integrity by fixing the system to work more efficiently by allowing essential workers to vote while on duty. Also, we don’t need to shut down the entire country on Election Days”, they agreed.
However, the media experts identified some of the challenges capable of militating against instituting early voting style in Nigeria; these include paucity of fund, lack of infrastructure; lack of national database; emotional distortion of the electoral process; integrity of the process; uncoordinated institutional dynamism to mention a few. They believe that securing a national database, public voters education, legal frameworks, political will; training and re-training of INEC staff and building an inter-agency information sharing system, were some of the feasible solutions that could adequately domesticate early voting system in the country.
However, the program is one in the series of hangouts organized by the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies to live up to its objectives of establishing and consolidating a database on relevant development policy issues for utilization in deliberations on bills and drafting of legislation and strengthening democratic processes, structures and institutions among others.