Sweeping changes designed to make the 2019 general elections more transparent, credible and acceptable have been introduced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
In the guidelines on the voting pattern for the polls, INEC gave more powers to the presiding officer in each polling unit. His powers are so overwhelming that he can walk out his superiors, including the commission’s chairman, if the need arises.
He is also vested with the power to order the arrest of any suspected electoral offender.
Another major departure from the previous elections in the new guidelines is that voters will no longer waste their time around the polling booths as they will be allowed to vote immediately after their accreditation.
LEADERSHIP gathered that on the day of election, a presiding officer shall have the power within his polling unit to order for the arrest of any electoral offender.
In fact, he is classified as the “managing director” of the polling unit empowered by Section 49 of the Electoral Act, to even walkout INEC chairman within his territory, if the need arises.
INEC said that its officials, security personnel, candidates or their accredited polling/party agents, accredited journalists/media, accredited domestic and foreign observers are the only people who will be allowed access to its electoral material distribution centres, polling units, polling stations and collation centres.
The commission’s national commissioner for Information and Voter Education, Barr. Festus Okoye said: “The accreditation process shall comprise verification by the Smart Card Reader (SCR), checking of register of voters, and the inking of the cuticle of the specified finger.”
Giving details on INEC’s plans to ensure free, fair and credible elections next year, Okoye said that where the voter’s fingerprint is not authenticated after four attempts using the SCR, the APOI shall recapture the fingerprint of the voter in the prescribed manner and continue with the accreditation and voting process.
Okoye said that where the voter authentication fails after recapture, the APOI shall refer the voter to the presiding officer/assistant presiding officer (APO) for the voting point (VP) as the case may be, who shall examine and ascertain if the Permanent Voter Card (PVC) belongs to the voter; if satisfied that it belongs to him or her and that the voter has not been previously verified, he shall direct the voter to the APOI for register check and inking to continue with other accreditation and voting process.
“For the 2019 general elections, the voting procedure shall be in accordance with the Continuous Accreditation and Voting System (CAVS) and only voters with PVCs verified by the Smart Card Readers shall be allowed to vote,” Okoye added.
He said that each voter shall cast his/her vote in person at the polling unit/voting point/voting settlement he/she registered and in the manner prescribed by the commission.
“The presiding officer shall be responsible for regulating the admission of voters to the polling unit/voting point/voting settlement, and shall exclude all other persons except candidates or their polling agents, election officials, security personnel, accredited observers and any other person who in his opinion has lawful reason to be admitted and attendance register in polling unit booklet will signed by these categories of election personnel,” Okoye said.
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