So it is a no brainer to figure out that the electronic voting model may not be ideal for a national voting exercise in our country which has a population of about 200 million people; geographical spread of 923,768 km2 (356,669 sq miles); comprising of 36 states and the federal capital territory, FCT where electricity supply that would facilitate electronic voting, is at best available only on an average of not more than 6 hours daily, nationwide.
I would assume that before deciding to embark on the electronic voting initiative, lNEC must have done its homework and convinced itself that it is achievable. Hence l’m not discountenancing their, initiative, work or effort .
But given the success of the mail-in and early-voting systems adopted in the USA for 2020 presidential elections which enabled the world’s leading democracy record the highest number of votes in its history,with over 145 million people voting , is it not time we also explored similar options in electing our leaders ?
As people in politics are very well aware , rigging often happens at voting and collation centers. If voters can send their votes by mail (via postal service) directly to INEC office and with multiple electronic tracking systems guaranteeing the sanctity of the votes, there may be more fidelity in the system. Especially so, as polling booths and collation centers fraud prone stages might have been cut off.
From all indications , early voting system would not only save the INEC and indeed our country, the stress, huge costs and the embarrassment of the perennial complaints about voting materials not arriving on time at the locations where they are needed, but it would also reduce thuggery and violence on the days of elections as fewer people would be voting on the D-Day.
The experience in the USA where early votes and mail-in votes yielded over 100m of the 145 million votes before November 3 Election Day, validates the efficacy of mail-in and early voting system. So INEC should seriously consider adopting the system.
If we factor in the possibility that the ugly trend of ballot box and election results sheets snatching synonymous with Nigerian elections would also be highly reduced, or degraded, then there is a good case to adopt the systems that just worked perfectly well in the USA.
Another unique feature in the electioneering process in the USA is that it is organized at the state levels and as such decentralized.
Thats unlike in Nigeria where lNEC in Abuja calls the shots during elections in all the 36 states which is partly responsible for the logistics challenges that INEC is consistently grappling with whenever it is organizing elections. The centralization of the administration of elections in Nigeria constitutes another drag on Nigeria’s practice of constitutional democracy and hobbles the concept of federalism which we pretend to be operating in Nigeria, whereas in reality, we are practicing unitary system whereby everything is centralized.
Until we as a nation agree to devolve power from the centre (Exclusive Legislative List has 68 items) to the states, INEC would remain inured to logistics and other similar challenges that the agency faces during every election circle.
Arising from the above , what l would like to suggest to INEC and indeed the presidency, is that they should consider sending a bill to Congress for the review of our country’s electoral system with a view to factoring in mail -in and early -voting procedures as well as devolving national elections to the states (l’m aware that state electoral bodies are a sham) in the manner that the USA does it.
When that is done , we can see if under the watch of professor Mahmood Yakubu, and indeed president Buhari, our electoral system could inspire confidence in Nigerians that their votes matter.