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EkitiDecides2022: Six new changes to electoral act that will be implemented

In February 2022, President Muhammadu Buhari signed the 2022 Electoral Act Amendment Bill into law.

This Act which came after months of withheld assent repeals the Electoral Act of 2010 with the intent of bringing innovations to the regulation of Federal, State and Area Council elections in Nigeria.

Ahead of the Ekiti state governorship election, this article highlights changes to the electoral act and the 2022 election regulations and guidelines that will affect or be implemented during the governorship election. 

  1. Longer time frame for campaigns by political parties

Although both acts stipulate party campaigns must end 24 hours before the election day, the new act allows every political party to commence campaigns 150 days before polling day instead of the previous 90 days. 

This means all party campaigns for the Ekiti election ends Thursday June 16, 2022.

This is contained in section 94(1) of the Electoral Act 2022 (as amended).

  1. Electronic voter database

Before now, the voter register was only kept in hard copy but the new act provides that the commission shall keep the register of voters at its national headquarters and other locations, provided the register is kept in electronic format in its central database, in addition to being kept in manual or hardcopy format. 

Section 9(2) of 2022 Act makes this possible 

  1. Over voting redefined 

Section 51(2) of the electoral act gives the Presiding Officer (PO) the power to cancel the result of the election where the number of votes cast at an election in any polling unit exceeds the number of accredited voters in that Polling Unit (PU).

The number of accredited voters here refers to the number of intending voters accredited to vote in an election on the election day.

Under the former act, results are only cancelled when the number of votes cast at an election in any polling unit exceeds the number of registered voters in that polling unit accredited or not.

Based on this provision, “overvoting” means where votes cast at a polling unit exceed the number of accredited voters and not the number of registered voters. 

  1. Power to review returning officer’s decision 

Under the new act, INEC has the power to review the final decision of the Returning Officer (RO) in respect of questions of unmarked ballot paper, rejected ballot paper, declaration of scores of candidates and the return of a candidate, within seven days of the decision, and return where the declaration was not made voluntarily or was made contrary to the provisions of the law or the guidelines for the election.

In the former act, the decision of the RO was subject to review only by an election tribunal or court. Section 65(2) of the new act still gives the election tribunal or court the power to review the RO’s decision but it is not clear if which review should come first or which supersedes the other.

  1. Death of electoral candidates

Section 34(1) provides that where a candidate dies before the commencement of polls the election shall be postponed and shall commence within 14 days of the candidate’s death. Section 34(2) notes that if the candidate dies after the polls, but before the announcement of the final winner/result, the election will be suspended for not more than 21 days.

In the case of a legislative house position, the election shall start afresh and the political party who lost its candidate may conduct a fresh primary within 14 days of the death of its candidate and submit the name of a new candidate to the commission to replace the dead candidate.

For gubernatorial, presidential and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) area council elections, the running mate of the candidate shall continue with the election (as the new candidate) and nominate a new running mate.

  1.  Technological changes in electoral process

Section 47(2) of the new act, allows for the use of electronic devices such as smart card readers, electronic voting machines and other technological devices, in the accreditation process for voters and in the general conduct of elections.

Section 69(5) states that the presiding officer shall transfer the result including total accredited voters and result of the poll in a manner prescribed by the commission. 

The commission has said it will use the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and 3,346 have already been delivered for the June 18, Ekiti election.

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