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2023 elections: Are there invalid thumbprinting, as reported in this post?

Claim: A viral image showing different thumbprint positions classify some as valid and others as invalid. 

Verdict: FALSE. Our findings show all thumbprint positions shown in the image constitute valid votes. 

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As February 25, 2023 election draws near, different information will be shared on voting to sensitise the public, but some of this information may be misleading. 

Recently, images of different fingerprints have been shared on WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook on the right and wrong placement of the fingerprint. 

According to this image, only fingerprints within the fingerprint compartment in front of a party’s logo are valid. That is, if your fingerprint crosses or touches the line of the compartment, it becomes invalid. 

Screenshot of the viral fingerprint image. 

While many believe this and have gone ahead to reshare, some Twitter users disagree with the fingerprint placement described as invalid, noting a person’s vote only becomes invalid when it becomes difficult to determine which compartment it belongs to.

The significance of this assertion and the need to clarify this confusion and set the records straight prompted us to verify. 


What is the significance of your thumbprint /fingerprint? 

A fingerprint is an impression or mark made on a surface by the inner part of the top joint of the thumb. Its unique pattern of whorls and lines is used to identify individuals. 

Part four, section 52, subsection two, of the 2022 Electoral Act states that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) shall use indelible ink for any thumb mark by voters on ballot papers.

Subsection one of this same part notes that “Where a voter makes any writing or mark on a ballot paper by which he or she may be identified, the such ballot paper shall be rejected provided that any print resulting from the staining of the thumb of the voter in the voting compartment shall not be or be deemed to be a mark of identification.”

Which finger can I use to thumbprint?

INEC has clarified that any finger can be used to thumbprint in the general election.

According to INEC’s manual for election officers, indelible ink must be applied on the cuticle of the appropriate thumb/finger of the voter’s hand according to the type of election. 

For general elections, it would be applied to any of the applicable five fingers of a voter, but in the case of Stand-alone Elections, it would be applied to the left thumb of a voter).

Image showing the correct way to ink your thumb.

What is the correct placement of the thumbprint/fingerprint?

We reached out to INEC’s national commissioner for information, Festus Okoye, on the issue, and he shared the commission’s 2022 manual for election officers. 

According to this manual, only thumbprints placed equally across two political parties’ compartments or on multiple compartments constitute an invalid vote. Ballots without any fingerprint or with the voter’s name in place of a thumbprint also constitute an invalid vote.

Ballots sample showing the thumbprint position.

On the other hand, fingerprints placed within a party’s thumbprint compartment, on a party’s logo, or between a party’s logo and its thumbprint compartment constitute a valid vote. 

Screenshot of valid ballots sample showing the thumbprint position.

The voting procedure on election day

Voting at your polling unit on election day will follow this procedure:

Step 1– Join the queue at your Polling Unit (PU), where an INEC official will check if you are at the correct polling unit and confirm that the permanent Voters Card (PVC) presented belongs to you.

Step 2– An INEC official will confirm if your PVC is genuine using the card reader. You will also be asked to place your finger on the card reader.

Step 3– An INEC official will ask for your PVC and confirm if you are listed on the Voters Register. Afterwards, your name will be ticked and indelible ink applied to the cuticle of your finger.

Step 4– The Presiding officer will stamp, sign and endorse your ballot paper. You will be given the ballot paper rolled with the printed side inwards and directed to the voting cubicle.

Step 5– Once in the cubicle, stain your finger with the ink given and mark the compartment for your preferred candidate/party. After this, you must roll the ballot paper in the manner you were given and flatten it.

Step 6– Leave the voting cubicle and drop the ballot paper in the ballot box in full view of people at the PU.

Step 7– Leave the PU or wait, if you so choose, in an orderly and peaceful manner, to watch the process up to the declaration of the result.


Our findings show that all thumbprint positions in the viral image constitute valid votes, contrary to the assertion that some are valid while others are not. 

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