The Nigeria 2019 general elections slated to select the leader of a nation with over 180million people is around the corner. Everyone is clamouring to get their voters’ card in hope to vote-in the candidate of their choice. However, is the of use of ballot papers during the election sustainable? On the day of elections, ballot papers will be distributed to various polling units, which is not cost effective. Also, results can be rigged and the use of these papers affect the environment. However, the introduction of electronic voting system is a significant process essential for the improvement of the outcome of elections and for the reduction of fraud and corruption associated with ballot boxes and ballot papers therefore leading towards a sustainable future.
According to Wikipedia, electronic voting (also known as e-voting) refers to voting using electronic means to either aid or take care of the chores of casting and counting votes. Depending on the particular implementation, e-voting may use standalone electronic voting machines (also called EVM) or computers connected to the Internet. Only about 10 countries globally – like Australia, Brazil, Canada, USA and United Kingdom – use a form electronic voting during their major elections. In 2014, Namibia became the first African country to use electronic voting. On Saturday, 12 May, 2018, Kaduna became the first State in Nigeria and the second in Africa to use electronic voting for an election.
A worthy e-voting system must perform a majority of tasks while complying with a set of standards established by regulatory bodies, and must be capable to deal successfully with strong requirements associated with security, accuracy, integrity, swiftness, privacy, auditability, accessibility, cost-effectiveness, scalability and ecological sustainability.
Electronic voting systems may offer advantages compared to other voting techniques. An electronic voting system can be involved in any one of a number of steps in the setup, distributing, voting, collecting, and counting of ballots, and thus may or may not introduce advantages into any of these steps. Potential disadvantages exist as well including the potential for flaws or weakness in any electronic component.
Unlike the traditional voting system that we are used to in Nigeria, there are many strengths and benefits associated with electronic voting systems which makes it extremely unique and much more desirable, especially in developing nations with a high degree of election incidents as previously seen in the Kaduna State Local Government Electronic Elections.
With the various research done on e-voting, many agree that the system allows for faster vote count and tabulation of results, which makes manipulation of election results extremely difficult, as results are provided and/or announced in a timely fashion. In addition, election results are more accurate and valid as human errors and other attendant issues are reduced to the barest minimum.
Additionally, electronic voting enhances and improves the presentation and analysis of complicated ballot papers and increases convenience for voters, which directly and indirectly encourages interest and participation. The International Peace Institute (2011) stated that another critical advantage of electronic voting is fraud prevention at polling stations and locations as well as during transmission, tabulation, and distribution of results by eliminating human involvement. There is increased accessibility of ballot papers via radio for blind voters, with Internet voting as well as for household voters, and other voters overseas.
Moreover, with the advent of electronic voting system there is a significant reduction or total elimination of spoilt ballot papers as the voting system has the capacity to warn about or detect invalid votes. Finally, there is a tremendous long-term cost-savings in poll staff time and energy, and reduction in costs for the production, distribution, and management of ballot papers. In an interview with Channels Television, Kaduna State Governor Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai mentioned that the government saved about N1.7billion that could have been spent printing ballot papers with high-security features.
Over the past twenty years, research findings have consistently and unanimously demonstrated the usefulness of electronic voting technologies. Also, citizens and electoral experts support the utilisation of the electronic voting system as it clearly supersedes the paper-based system used in most developing nations. Overall, the advantages of electronic voting technology in democratic elections greatly outweigh the disadvantages.
The adaption of e-voting systems greatly addresses the concerns of security, transparency, accountability and economic savings and we have as Nigerians. The journey towards a sustainable future has begun in Kaduna State. Though the e-voting system will not implemented in the Nigeria 2019 general elections, we can hope that the adequate preparations will be made for a fair and transparent 2023 general elections.
- Channels Television (2018) Nigeria Can Adopt Electronic Voting, Says El-Rufai After Kaduna LG Polls
- Ephraim Okoro, PhD (2016) “A Cost-Benefit Analysis of Electronic Voting Operations and Capabilities in sub-Saharan Africa” Journal of Business & Economic Policy Vol. 3, No. 3
- Wikipedia (2018) Electronic voting