Senate amends Electoral Act, okays e-voting for 2019

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Senate amends Electoral Act, okays e-voting for 2019

The Senate, on Thursday, passed the bill for the amendment of the Electoral Act 2010, even as it approved electronic voting and moved to legalise the existing electronic voter accreditation system.

The lawmakers also set new guidelines for political parties on the conduct of direct and indirect primaries.

These were part of the recommendations in the report by the Senate Committee on Independent National Electoral Commission on ‘A bill for an Act to amend the Electoral Act No. 6, 2010 and for other related matters (SB 231 and SB 234)’.

The upper chamber of the National Assembly passed the bill at the plenary on Thursday.

The approval of e-voting is contained in Section 52(2).

It states, “The commission shall adopt electronic voting in all elections or any other method of voting as may be determined by the commission from time to time.”

The lawmakers, in their justification for the amendment, said, “This amendment mandates e-voting without ambiguity but also gives the commission the discretion to use other methods if it is impracticable to use e-voting in any election.”

It read in part, “A person, who being a member of a political party, misrepresents himself by not disclosing his membership, affiliation, or connection to any political party in order to secure an appointment with the commission in any capacity, commits an offence and shall be liable, on conviction, to imprisonment for at least five (5) years or a fine of at least N5,000,000, or both.”

A former Chairman of the Senate Committee on INEC, Senator Abubakar Kyari, while addressing journalists after the plenary, said Nigeria’s electoral umpire would be empowered to make electoral process fully electronic if the bill was signed by the President.

He said, “If you remember, the fallout of the 2015 election was the use of the smart card reader. You will also remember court judgments that did not accept the use of the smart card reader as part of the process of accrediting the voter. You will also understand that the smart card is not used in voting but used as a means of accrediting the individual.

“We also had minor lapses with the smart card reader during the 2015 elections. One thing is certain: the smart card readers did not fail to read cards, what they failed to do was to tie the cards with the individuals through their biometrics. The card readers refused, in some instances, to connect the biometric fingerprint to the cards. So, there were many problems with smart card readers.

“What we did, in essence, is to authenticate the use of smart card readers as a means of accrediting a voter in the Electoral Act. That is one of the major landmarks that we have embedded in the Electoral Act.

“Another major amendment is the use of any other electronic devices (for election). The smart card reader, as the name connotes, is specific to reading the smart card. But what we have now done is that we have also allowed INEC to use any other technological devices in the process; not necessarily sticking to the card reader.

“We have expanded the definition of that instrument or any other instrument that will guide INEC in terms of accreditation. We have also given INEC the powers to introduce electronic voting through any technological devices as INEC deems it fit if they think the time is right.”

His assertion is contained in the amended Section 52(2), which states, “The Commission shall adopt electronic voting in all elections or any other method of voting as may be determined by the Commission from time to time.” Source: Punch

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