Politics, Seat of Power

Elections special: How to conduct yourself as you vote

-elections offences and penalties

+step-by-step guide to voting

As Nigeria operates democracy – the government of, by and for the people – her citizens have the ultimate power to determine their leaders every four years through elections.

And with the six-week extension of the 2015 general elections now winding down, duly registered voters are bracing themselves to cast their votes and choose their preferred candidates.

However, elections-organizing body, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is charged with ensuring the process is as free, fair as possible and that it reflects the choices of the voters.

To achieve this, INEC has outlined guidelines voters should adhere to or face penalties…

  • A voter should not possess more than one valid voter’s card; else he shall be liable on conviction to a maximum fine of N100,000 or 12 months imprisonment, or both.
  • A voter who applies for ballot paper in the name of some other person whether living or dead has impersonated; and thus is liable on conviction to a fine of N500,000 or 12 months imprisonment or both.
  • Any voter who votes more than once in an election is liable on conviction to a fine of N500,000 or 12 months imprisonment or both.
  • A voter who willfully places in any ballot box any unauthorized paper or result is liable on conviction to 2 years imprisonment.
  • Any voter who within the vicinity of the polling unit or collation centre on election day wears or carries any badge, poster, banner, flag or symbol relating to a political party or election is liable on conviction to a fine of N100,000 or 6 months imprisonment for every such offence.
  • A voter who knowingly votes or attempts to vote in a constituency in which he/she did not register shall be liable on conviction to a fine of N100,000 or 6 months imprisonment or both.
  • A person who within the vicinity of polling unit or collation centre on election day: convenes public meeting; makes unauthorized official announcements shall be liable on conviction to a fine of N100,000 or 6 months imprisonment for every such offence.
  • A person who acts or incites others to act in a disorderly manner on election day shall be liable on conviction to a fine of N500,000 or 12 months imprisonment or both.
  • A person who communicates at any time to other person information obtained in a polling unit as to the candidate to whom a voter is about to vote or has voted for (that is violation of the secrecy of vote) is liable on conviction to a fine of N100,000 or 6 months imprisonment or both.
  • A person who snatches or destroys election materials is liable on conviction to 24 months imprisonment
  • Anyone who gives voters money to vote for or refrain from voting for a candidate shall be liable on conviction to a fine of N100,000 or 12 months imprisonment or both.
  • Anyone who forges any ballot paper or official mark on any ballot paper or any certificate of return or result form is liable on conviction to 2 years imprisonment.
  • Any person who on election day does any of the following…
  • canvasses for votes; solicits for the vote of any other voter; persuades any voter not to vote for any particular candidate; shouts slogans concerning the election; be in possession of any offensive weapon or wears any dress or facial decoration to intimidate other voters; exhibits, wears or tenders any notice, symbol, photography or party card referring to the election; use of any vehicle bearing the colour or symbol of a particular party; loiter without lawful excuse after voting or being refused to vote; use of sirens; is liable on conviction to a fine of N100,000 or 6 months imprisonment for every such offence.

STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE TO VOTING

On election day, this is what you should expect:

Step One:

Accreditation starts at 8am. When you arrive at the polling unit, present your voter card to the presiding officer. He/she will verify and authenticate it using the card reader. The card reader will show the bio-data of the voter including picture and finger prints. This first step authenticates the voter card to be genuine or not. If genuine, the voter would be passed on to the next stage. Otherwise, the possessor of the voter card would be asked to leave the polling station.

Step Two:

If the card reader authenticates the voter as having an authentic voter card, he/she will be taken through the next step of accreditation which is the biometric exercise to confirm that the person with the valid voter card is the true owner of the card. Here, he/she would place either the index finger or thumb at the top of the card reader to match the finger print with the one on the voter card. Then he will be certified for voting. In the event that some persons’ fingerprints are not read, the presiding officer using his discretion could pass persons who fail the biometrics on to the next stage of voting but note will be taken of such cases in an incident form available at the station. All accredited voters will be given a number based on when they were accredited.

 

Step Three:

Voting will begin after accreditation which would officially end by 1 pm. The supervisory presiding officer and his assistants will then arrange the voters in an orderly manner beginning from the first person to arrive the voting area.

 

Step Four:

The voter mentions the number which he/she was given during the accreditation. This will guide the presiding officer to check through the INEC register to cross check that it was still the same person that was accredited that has turned up to vote.

Step Five:

If confirmed that the person was the same person accredited, the presiding officer will issue him/her a ballot paper to enable him/her cast their vote.

Step Six:

For the March 28 elections, three ballot boxes would be provided each for the three elections – that is Presidential, Senatorial and House of Representatives – and they are also customized in line with the ballot papers. The voter will cast his ballot in respect of the ballot paper.

Step Seven:

After the last voter on the queue has cast his/her ballots, the presiding officer will begin with the process of sorting the ballots from the three ballot boxes and dropped in their rightful places that is the presidential, Senatorial and House of Representatives.

Step Eight:

The voter will wait if he or she wishes for the counting and announcement of the outcome of the election. If voters must stay for the counting, they must do so in orderly fashion. However, any voter who wants to leave after voting is equally free to do so.

Step Nine:

At the end of the counting, the presiding officer would announce the result at the polling station and place

the results for all to see.

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