NIGERIANS can vote electronically today if the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, wants it to work. The other side to the use of electronic voting is the National Assembly, and myriad of politicians who have interests that electronic voting would not support.
INEC has enough equipment to ensure electronic voting. The equipment bought for 2007 and more for the 2011 elections all have the capacity to support electronic voting. The registration of voters was done electronically, with all the data captured in modes that make it possible for us to vote electronically. Prof. Attahiru Jega, INEC Chairman, last year, said electronic voting would happen soon.
Former INEC Chairman Prof. Maurice Iwu, before the 2007 elections, proposed electronic voting. He was dismissed. Low literacy was one of the reasons cited for the rejection. When would Nigerians be literate enough to use electronic voting? Are there no solutions to the literacy barriers?
Constitutional hurdles, according to INEC, particularly Section 52 (2) of the Electoral Law, forbid electronic voting. It may not be the main reason. We have seen the National Assembly amend the Constitution as many times as it wanted for the 2011 elections. It approved budgetary allocations with speed. Why would it not make the laws to support electronic voting?
The answer lies on the approach to power. Politicians utilise rigging as a strong instrument in their quest for victories. They are afraid electronic voting could create shifts in power, away from their control.
Benefits of electronic voting are numerous. It would ensure speed in the collation of results, stop rigging and restore confidence in our elections.
Electronic voting, used in Brazil since 1996, has improved elections. From the 1989 presidential elections where the vote count lasted nine days, the 2002 general elections was counted in less than 12 hours. Even in the rural areas, results were ready within minutes of concluding voting.
The Electoral Act can be amended to accommodate this important change in our elections. What is the point of having a law that cannot fulfil the mandates it claims it has set out to address? The Electoral Act fails to punish rigging, electronic voting could stop rigging.
No proper account of the 2011 elections have been given, especially how the technological advances that cost billions of Naira did not facilitate improvements in the process. INEC can use the time left to resolve the issues with its equipment and promote electronic voting education to deal with the literacy challenge.
Management of post-election crises, from perceived rigging, leaves Nigeria with governments that lack credibility. INEC and the National Assembly should re-visit electronic voting, which the National Assembly uses well in conducting its businesses.