Senate Tows Path To Legalise e-Voting

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In what is apparently a justification of the call made months ago by serial digital entrepreneur and chairman of Zinox Group, Leo Stan Ekeh, the senate has amended the Electoral Act of 2010 to legalise the use of smart card readers for the authentication of accredited voters as was done in the 2015 general election.
The amendment to the Act would  also pave the way for electronic voting in future elections. The senate also empowered the presiding officer at polling units to, in addition to the smart card reader, use any other technological device that may be prescribed by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from time to time for the accreditation of voters to verify, confirm or authenticate the genuineness or otherwise of voters’ card.
The passage of the Bill for an Act to amend the Electoral Act 2010 and for other related matters followed the consideration and adoption of the report of the senate committee on INEC on Thursday. The bill, which passed its third reading, also stipulates that votes and recorded results must be transmitted electronically directly from polling units in an encrypted and secured form.
The amendment provides that if for some reason the encrypted data is compromised, the presiding officer would have to rely on the manual collation, which could however be prone to manipulation. Where the encrypted data was safe, it completely supersedes the manual results.
The amendment is also offering a solution to the ambiguity that may occur in the event a candidate dies after the commencement of elections and before the declaration of a winner by INEC, as was the case during the Kogi gubernatorial election.
As far back as May 2016, Ekeh had declared that the time is ripe for Nigeria to deepen its democratic culture through the full deployment of electronic voting during elections.
He had made the call while appearing as the keynote speaker at a retreat organised by the House of Representatives Committee on Electoral and Political Parties Matter held on Friday, May 27,  2016, at the Transcorp Hilton, Abuja where he disclosed that with the rapid pace of technological advancements, Nigeria stood  to reap a lot of benefits from the deployment of e-voting, stressing that the initiative would go a long way in reducing litigations and strengthening the faith of Nigerians in the electoral process.
In a paper titled: “ New Thoughts, Ideas and Innovations on Use of ICT in Elections,” Ekeh affirmed that the gains recorded with the use of the card readers in the 2015 general elections goes a long way to showing  that with the adoption of e-voting, the country would take a huge leap towards sound democratic governance.
“The country is ripe for transition to electronic voting. In your life, there must be a little bit of disruption for you to move forward. With the use of the card readers in the last general elections, we saw a significant reduction in electoral fraud. However, a few challenges still existed as no technology can be said to be 100 per cent perfect.
“A country cannot move forward where the elected leaders who take decisions are not the choice of the people. It’s like running a company and you are a shareholder in that company. If your son is not qualified to lead, you will be destroying that company by manipulating the system to favour that son. So, this was the essence of our submission to INEC on the adoption of electronic voting – that things should be done professionally with your support and that of the entire nation.
“Today, there are about 774 local governments in the country and each one with about 10, 800 polling units, some of which are in the riverine areas. Even if INEC purchases 1000 vehicles, it will still find it difficult logistics-wise to cover all the areas and this leaves the process open to manipulation by emergency contractors as INEC lacks the requisite man-power.
“If finally adopted and implemented, electronic voting will ensure that you now have reasonable infrastructure to handle this. While you have the mobile units and active screens at the polling units, the database of registrants or eligible voters is sitting at the national database of INEC,” Ekeh said.

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