The Independent National Electoral Commissioner (INEC) has spoken on the possibility of Nigeria adopting postal voting ahead of the 2023 elections.
Postal voting is an electoral process where ballot papers are mailed to voters who vote and return by post for onward transmission to the election centres. Upon arrival at the processing centres, the ballots are then photographed, converted to text and sorted.
Speaking on the debate about the nation’s capability to introduce postal voting, INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education, Festus Okoye, said although the commission is committed to deepening the use of technology in the electoral process, postal voting would require a “functional and robust postal system”.
He stated this in an interview with TheCable, adding that the system would require amendment of the relevant electoral laws.
Okoye, pointed out that Nigeria’s postal system is “not in the best shape” for electorate to vote by mail, and if that is addressed, another challenge would be amending the electoral act.
He explained that although INEC is empowered by the electoral act to determine voting procedures, the commission is also restrained by certain laws that prescribe specific routine for the conduct of elections.
For instance, sections 49(1) and 52(3), respectively, require voters to be present at the polling unit and that votes must be cast through open secret ballots with the use of ballot boxes.
Okoye said: “The commission has made elaborate recommendations to the national assembly to amend sections 48, 49,50, 53, 54 and other ancillary provisions to introduce electronic voting machines and other technological solutions in the electoral process.
“The commission will also embark on comprehensive and far reaching update of the existing voters register and the continuous registration of voters. The commission and the Nigerian people are attuned to the deepening of technology in the electoral process.
“We want to introduce electronic voting machines and gradually migrate to Internet voting and the use of other electronic platforms and solutions. Mail-in ballots and postal voting depend on a functional and robust postal system.
“Our postal system is not in the best shape and did not fundamentally upgrade in line with technological changes in the world. Even in advanced democracies, the postal system still struggles to cope with the volume of mail in ballots and postal voting.”