10 accreditation and voting guidelines INEC released ahead 2019 general polls

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The Independent National Electoral Commission yesterday yielded to pressure from political parties by modifying its regulations and guidelines for the conduct of the 2019 general elections.

According to INEC, the new regulations and guidelines were also for bye-elections, re-run elections and supplementary elections.

They took effect from January 10, and superseded all other regulations and/or guidelines on the conduct of elections.

Under the new arrangement, the electoral body modified some of the guidelines but remained adamant on simultaneous voting and accreditation.

The commission also made mandatory the use of the Smart Card Reader (SCR) and use of Tendered Ballot which, it said, was consistent with the provision of section 60 of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended).

The modified regulations and guidelines for the conduct of the 2019 elections was contained in a document by INEC National Commissioner and Chairman of its Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye.

INEC had last week, released the draft guidelines for the conduct of the 2019 election to the 91 registered political parties, CSOs, media, professional groups, security agencies and other critical stakeholders in the electoral process, amidst criticisms.

But the Regulations and Guidelines had sparked off row between INEC and some of the political parties, which argued that the commission had released the document without their input.

According to Okoye, the new guidelines and regulations were issued after INEC had considered all the inputs made by political parties, the media and other critical stakeholders.

He said, “The regulations and guidelines are issued as a decision extract of the commission on January 10 2019 and supersedes all other regulations and/or guidelines on the conduct of elections issued by the commission and shall remain in force until replaced by new regulations or amendments supported by a decision extract of the commission or an official gazette. These provisions are designed to strengthen the electoral process and expand access to voters.”

The 10 points, as listed in the new regulations and guidelines include;

1. The voting procedure for the conduct of all elections covered by the Regulations and Guidelines remains the Continuous Accreditation and Voting (CAV) as provided in section 8(a) of the Regulations and Guidelines.

2. The Mandatory Use of the Smart Card Reader. This is in accordance with section 8(b) of the Regulations and Guidelines which provides that “No person shall be allowed to vote at any Polling Unit/Voting Point Settlement/Voting Point other than the one at which his/her name appears in the Register of Voters and he/she presents his/her permanent voter’s card to be verified by the Smart Card Reader (SCR), or as otherwise determined by the Commission”

3. The use of Tendered Ballot has been provided, consistent with the provision of section 60 of the Electoral Act, 2010(as amended). This is in accordance with Section 19 of the Regulations and Guidelines, 2019: “If a person claiming to be entitled to vote applies for a ballot paper after another person has voted in the name given by the claimant, he/she shall, upon satisfactory answers given to any questions put to him/her by the APO II, shall be entitled to receive a ballot paper in the same manner as any other voter; but the ballot paper shall be a tendered ballot paper and deposited in the Tendered Ballot envelope in accordance with the procedure in the Electoral Act.”

4. Voters whose finger prints are not authenticated or for whom wrong picture pops up, both due to technical hitches will still vote, but Polling Agents will be consulted. This is in accordance with section 11(f) of the Regulations and Guidelines which provides that “In all cases from 11(b) to 11(e) the Presiding Officer shall fill the appropriate forms in the PU booklet and make a report. Affected voters in 11(b) and 11(e) qualify to be issued ballot papers after consultation with Polling Agents.

5. Presenting someone else’s PVC for voting may lead to prosecution. This is in accordance with section 12(b) which provides that “any person who presents the PVC of another person with an intention to use it to vote, shall not be allowed to vote and may be liable to arrest and prosecution”.

6. Margin of Lead Principle More Clearly Defined. This is clearly defined in section 32(e) which provides that “Where the margin of lead between the two leading candidates in an election is NOT in excess of the total number of voters registered in Polling Units where elections are not held or voided in line with sections 26 and 53 of the Electoral Act, the returning officer shall decline to make a return until polls have taken place in the affected Polling Units and the results collated into the relevant forms for Declaration and Return.

This is the Margin of Lead Principle and shall apply wherever necessary in making returns of all elections to which these Regulations and Guidelines apply”

7. Recount provided for in accordance with Section 64 of the Electoral Act, 2010(as amended). This is in accordance with section 22(a) of the Regulations and Guidelines which provides that “At the close of voting, the Presiding Officer shall: (i) cancel all the unused ballot papers by crossing them out; (ii) sort out the ballot papers by party and thereafter loudly count the votes scored by each political party in the presence of the Polling Agents and observers; (iii) allow recount of votes on demand by a Polling Agent, provided that such a recount shall only be allowed once”.

8. Mandatory Pasting of Form EC60E. The Regulations and Guidelines provides that at the close of poll and after sorting and counting and recording of votes, the Presiding Officers shall post the completed Publication of Result Poster EC60(E) at the Polling Unit;

9. Not pasting of Form EC60E is electoral offence in line with Section 123 of the Electoral Act, 2010(as amended).

10. Voter Free to remain within the Vicinity of Polling Unit after Voting. This is in accordance with section 20(d) of the Regulations and Guidelines which provides that “After casting his/her ballot; the voter is free to remain within the vicinity of the Polling Unit to witness the sorting and counting of votes and the announcement of results, provided he/she is orderly”.

IPAC summons emergency meeting

Meanwhile, Chairman of Inter Party Advisory Council, High Chief Peter Ameh, has summoned the emergency meeting of the political parties today (Tuesday) to deliberate on the development.

Ameh, who stated this in a telephone chat with our reporter, said he would not be able to comment on the modifications until he discussed with his members.

Although he revealed that some political parties had already dragged INEC to court over the unilateral decision of INEC to prepare and issue the guidelines, he stated that the position of IPAC would be made known to journalists after the meeting.

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