BY Henrietta Chinedu
Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, the INEC boss yesterday in Abuja at the joint national briefing of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 has disclosed that the Commission will use electronic balloting for future elections in the country beginning from the November 2021 Anambra State governorship election.
The commission, however, emphasized that full deployment of Electronic Voting Machine (EVM), which will include e-transmission of results would only be implemented when the electoral act is amended.
“We have been using technology to deepen democracy, for the accreditation of observers, media and even the submission of candidates by the parties in Edo and Ondo elections.
“This commission is committed to introducing at least electronic balloting using machines to ballot and we are determined to implement this using the Anambra governorship election in November next year.
“Thereafter when the law is amended, we can talk about e-transmission of results because the law at present does not allow for e-transmission of results but it allows electronic balloting hoping that when the law is amended, we can go full blast to transmit results electronically,” Yakubu said.
The INEC boss clarified that the recently introduced tablet (Z-pad) would not be deployed for the Edo and Ondo governorship elections because it is still undergoing testing. According to him, the innovation introduced by the present commission in order to optimise the use of smart card reader, particularly to achieve full biometric accreditation.
He, however, noted that the result viewing portal as piloted by the commission during the Nasarawa state constituency bye-election will be fully deployed for the governorship elections.
He said: “The second technology is what we piloted in the Nasarawa state constituency bye-election by taking a picture of the EC8A which is the result from the polling units and uploading it on a portal for public view. Nigerians can see results from polling units real time as elections are going on.
“We couldn’t use the card reader to do so because it has no camera. In Nasarawa, after testing running the uploading of result, we are satisfied and I invite all Nigerians to register and use the portal. We are committed to deploying same technology in all subsequent elections including Edo next week.”
“The second dimension of the deployment of the Z-pad is what we are still working on. It is work in progress. We deployed it in 44 polling units and 36 voting points in Nasarawa central which is half of a local government. We need to do a lot more before we deploy the new technology in a major election such as Edo governorship poll.
“The staff of the commission are still working on improvement until we are satisfied that the system is robust and until we have also consulted with stakeholders on the deployment of this new technology, we wouldn’t like to gamble with it in a major election.”
Warning that violence during the Edo and Ondo states governorship may complicate the nation’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Yakubu insisted that voters without face masks will not be allowed to vote.
He added: “We have identified 8 protective measures ranging from the mandatory use of facemask, hand sanitizers, use of methylated spirit and cotton wool to clean the card readers, the rules of physical distancing, the use of infrared thermometers and procedure for handling voters and officials showing COVID-19 symptoms.
“It is mandatory to wear face mask or face covering without which the voter will not be allowed vote. Face covering will be sufficient for the voter to be accredited and to vote.
“Voters are required to maintain physical distancing. The commission introduced two-queues, one outside the polling area and the other inside the polling area. Within the inner queues, voters must maintain the mandatory two-meter distance from each other and we clearly marked this in the last bye-elections.
“Voters showing symptoms must also obey all directions by officials to stop other voters from been infected”
Yakubu explained that INEC has produced its policy in Braille for virtually impaired voters they may not be able to read it’s flyers and posters.
“All these steps are in the realm of planning but the true test of the plan is its actual implementation. We are going into Edo next week assured that we have test run our preparations for voting under the COVID 19,” Yakubu said.