The Independent National Electoral Commission has said that Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) will be used for future elections in the country beginning from 2021, however, the forthcoming governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states will run on the existing order.
INEC disclosed this in a document released on Monday in Abuja, which was tagged, “Policy on Conducting Elections in the Context of the Covid-19 Pandemic”, and signed by its Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu.
The electoral umpire decried the rising cost of elections in the country, saying it would be liaising with the National Assembly to see how political parties can nominate replacements for dead representatives in line with a Supreme Court judgment that votes belong to the parties and not individuals.
The commission said it will not only pilot the use of e-voting machines at the earliest possible time after the forthcoming Edo and Ondo governorship elections, but will also work towards the full introduction of electronic voting in major elections starting from 2021.
The agency has also suspended Continuous Registration of Voters (CVR) to prevent the health risks associated with it as a result of COVID-19.
According to the details of the conduct of elections and voting in line with the guidelines for the management of Coronavirus Disease as released yesterday, polling unit layout shall be redesigned with periodic disinfection of chairs, tables and work areas, as well as adequate ventilation.
It said the threshold for Voting Points shall be increased from 500/750 to 1,000/1,250.
It added that voters without face masks will not be allowed to vote in the forthcoming governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states.
The commission said, “The most immediate challenge that COVID-19 poses to the electoral process is health related.
“For the elections in Edo and Ondo, INEC also said face masks would be made compulsory for voters, electoral officials and everyone else at all election locations.
“Polling unit areas shall be redesigned to ensure substantial compliance with established protocols such as social distancing.
“In order to accommodate additional activities in setting up the PU due to COVID-19, polls shall now commence at 8.30 am and close at 2.30 pm,” the commission also said, adding that personal protective equipment and other safety materials shall be provided for polling staff.
INEC also came up with a long list of protocols for the conduct of elections and voting.
It added: “All ad hoc staff databases in the commission will be harmonized for better management. To reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19, the Commission shall reduce to a minimum interstate movement of staff, including ad hoc staff, for off-season and bye elections.
“The rule shall be that only shortfalls requested by the States are filled from outside the state. As much as possible, all election staff will be sourced in-state. d. Transportation of election staff shall comply with COVID-19 containment protocols.
“Consequently, there shall be a reduction in the number of passengers per vehicle on election day from 14 to 7 for buses, and from 12 to 6 for boats. Motorcycles and tricycles must be used sparingly with one passenger per motorcycle and two per tricycle. All passengers and drivers must wear face masks and it shall be mandatory and the responsibility of vehicle owners to provide hand sanitizers for occupants of their vehicles.
“In the establishment of Voting Points, in order to reduce the number of points in a Polling Unit to be monitored and controlled for COVID-19 compliance, the threshold for Voting Points shall be increased from 500/750 to 1,000/1,250.
“In the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Polling Unit layout shall be redesigned by the Commission to ensure substantial compliance with the protocols established by health authorities. Among other things, social distancing, general hygienic conduct and enforcement of COVID-19 prevention protocols shall be emphasized in the redesign.
“There shall be a two-tier queuing system at the Polling Unit – one outside and the other in the voting area. Voters will be brought into the voting area periodically to prevent overcrowding. Tags and twines may be used to ensure crowd control and maintenance of social distance.