Kaduna State opened a new chapter in the nation’s electoral history by becoming the first state to hold a successful electronic voting, changing election narratives in the process. Conducting local government elections have been a herculean task for many states, leaving some with the option of appointing sole administrators to run the affairs of local governments for years.
When the electorate in Kaduna State filed out on Saturday, May 12, 2018, to vote in the local government election to elect chairmen and councillors of their choice, only a few gave a thought to the outcome of the exercise. It was assumed by many to be a routine exercise with predictable outcome.
This is so because, over the years, it has been difficult to conduct local government elections without so many irregularities. The norm has always been that ruling parties in the state sweep the whole elections, leaving opposition parties to lament in vain. But last Saturday, the Kaduna model, if anything, has given hope to opposition parties that they can truly contest and win local government elections supervised by state electoral bodies.
The government of the state, elated at the relative success of the process, said that at no time did it doubt that the people will embrace electronic voting. We commend all those who made that possible-the state government, the people and even the electoral body that organised and supervised the exercise held under a peaceful atmosphere.
Independent observers acknowledged that given the experience of the state in previous elections, it was, indeed, a peaceful and orderly election and unlike most local government elections where the ruling party takes the day, the Kaduna example shows that states can hold free and fair elections and opposition parties can win elections.
We note that aside from having the potential to increase voter turnout, electronic voting reduces costs, increases voter confidence, renews interest in the political system (and voting), and ensures the most democratic process possible. One of the significant benefits of this new system is the possibility for increased efficiency.
In our considered opinion, what took place in Kaduna State should serve as a pilot project as we carry on with experiment to fine tune the electoral processes. It is pertinent, in our view, that the federal government considers the possibility of trying the system in the forthcoming Ekiti state gubernatorial election with the intention of expanding it during the 2019 general election. We, therefore, recommend that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should copy the Kaduna model for subsequent elections in the country. The Commission should also assist in educating voters on the need as well as importance of electric voting.
With electronic voting there are no rejected, mismarked or invalid ballots. Results are automatically calculated, eliminating the need for manual tabulation and dreaded recounts. Computerized tabulation allows election managers to quickly announce decisions and results. Put differently, it is fast and produces accurate results.
As with any new process, electronic voting election might cause anxiety and trepidation for some citizens. The Federal Government should invest in a well-planned public enlightenment and education strategy to properly teach and reassure the electorate about the new voting system. This plan will require buy-in from the leadership of the political parties and must be large enough in scope to reach all electorate.
As the saying goes, the biggest room in the world is the room for improvement. To this extent, we suggest that any improvement will be such that will make it more conclusive and conduct elections on the same day. This is imperative if the integrity and acceptability of the outcome are to be guaranteed.
Building an electronic voting system requires programming experience and an understanding of election processes. Often, nations need to look outside the organization to establish an online voting system either because they lack the necessary expertise or because building such a system internally would put an unreasonable strain on their resources. If an outside vendor is required, the challenge will be to find an election partner as serious about elections as the agency is. INEC should ask for potential partners for references and research their track records.
As stated earlier, we commend the Kaduna State Independent Electoral Commission that set the ball rolling for a good outing which provided all parties a level playing field and the Kaduna State government for creating an enabling environment for the whole process. We also commend the electorate for conducting themselves in the manner they did. We see this as a fresh insight in the effort to deepen the nation’s democracy.