Experts gathered in Abuja are worried that majority of eligible voters are often disenfranchised due to the nature of their assignments..
In 2015, according to a meeting organised by the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS) on Wednesday for Social Media Influencers and members of the Civil Society Organizations with its Director General, Prof. Ladi Hamalai, more than two million eligible voters were disenfranchised in past elections because they were on essential duties on election days.
According to the meeting the number of disenfranchised voters is more than the registered voters in States like Bayelsa and Ekiti that have 610,373 and 732,021 registered voters respectively.
The deliberations in Abuja is intended to proffer feasible solutions to the issues surrounding early voting, electoral inclusion and high voters turnout, which deals with the need to allow people exercise their franchise, no matter their locations.
During the interactive hangout, the DG of the Institute, Prof. Hamalai expressed concern about essential workers like journalists, electoral officials, security personnel who are likely to be disenfranchised in elections, including 16, 000 electoral officials and one million ad hoc staff; 371,800 Police Officers, most of whom are deployed to provide security during elections; 45,000 regular staff and 160,000 volunteers of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSDC). Others that are left out in the voting process are military personnel, domestic observer groups, media crews; prisoners; medical officials; and people with disabilities.
Participants at the roundtable discussions
appreciated the need to adopt early voting system in Nigeria, adding that it would increase voter turnout in subsequent general elections.
“We need early voting system, but we can also raise our electoral integrity by fixing the system to work more efficiently by allowing essential workers to vote while on duty. Also, we don’t need to shut down the entire country on Election Days”, they agreed.
Media experts identified paucity of fund, lack of infrastructure; lack of national database; emotional distortion of the electoral process; integrity of the process; uncoordinated institutional dynamism as some of the militating against against early voting in the coubtry.
The experts believe that securing a national database, public voters education, legal frameworks, political will; training and re-training of INEC staff and building an inter-agency information sharing system, were some of the feasible solutions that could adequately domesticate early voting system in the country.