The new polling units – The Sun

No Comments » August 24th, 2014 posted by // Categories: Elections 2015



THE SUN

The new polling units – The Sun

Posted by: The Citizen in Public Affairs August 24, 2014

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has created additional 30,000 polling units in the country to ensure that no polling unit has more than 500 voters. The electoral agency, in a bid to ensure successful conduct of the 2015 polls, also held a capacity-building training for political party agents in the country. These initiatives of the electoral umpire are commendable.

With the new polling units, the nation now has 150,000 voting centres. The creation of the new units is in compliance with the 2010 Electoral Act, which stipulates that no polling unit should have more than 500 voters.

Some polling units have had much more than 500 registered voters in past elections, hence the need to create new ones to adequately cater for the 70,383,427 voters in the country.

A state-by-state distribution of the new polling units shows that Lagos State has the lion share of 2,870 units, thus bringing to 11,565 the polling units that will serve its 5,426,391 registered voters. Similarly, Kano State with 4,751,818 registered voters has additional 2,053 polling units, bringing its voting centres to 9,809. On the other hand, Kaduna State with 3,743, 815 registered voters got additional 2,878 polling units, leaving it with a total of 7,878. Bayelsa State, which has the lowest number of registered voters in the country (590,679), has additional 121 polling units, bringing the number of its voting centres to 1,925.

We welcome the creation of new polling units to enhance the conduct of elections in the country.

Before this intervention, many polling units had well over 500 registered voters, especially in highly congested city centres. With the additional units, the era of having too many voters at a polling centre is gone. It is hoped that this exercise will encourage more people to come out to vote during elections. The reduction in the number of voters allocated to polling centres will reduce overcrowding and make it easier for electoral officials to conduct polls.

This is a timely intervention. Let INEC ensure that the new polling units go to the areas that actually need them so that they can serve the purpose for which they were created. The distribution of the units should be in accordance with the provisions of the Electoral Act 2010. No region or individuals should be favoured with such allocations.

Already, there are allegations of lopsidedness in the allocation of these new polling units, as well as in appointments into key positions in INEC, in favour of a particular section of the country.

We call on the chairman of INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega, to look into these complaints and address the issues raised in view of their implications for the 2015 general polls. If there are structural or institutional arrangements that could favour a candidate from a particular section of the country above the other candidates, the electoral umpire should rectify them before the polls.

As a federal government agency charged with electoral matters, INEC should reflect federal character in its appointments into key positions and guard against partisanship in the allocation of polling units. Where there are genuine complaints, it behooves on the electoral agency to redress them as quickly as possible.

We also commend INEC for the recent workshop it organised to enhance the capacity of party agents in preparation for the 2015 polls. It is a step in the right direction.

The workshop organised by the INEC Electoral Institute in collaboration with UNDP-Democratic Governance for Development Project in Abuja was, according to Jega, held “to bring political parties up-to-date on international best practices to standardise the conduct of elections across the globe.”

The training is welcome as it will help party agents to understand what they are expected to do at polling units during elections. Such trainings should be a continuous exercise to make the intended impact. It should not be a one-off thing.

Beyond the creation of new polling units and the training of party agents, there is need for continuous voter education as well as the education of security personnel assigned to man the polling units and other electoral duties.

 

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