More than the freedom of speech and protection of your right to have terrible opinions about anything, elections are one of the status symbols of a functioning democracy.
Since no system is perfect, it’s important to always improve them. And if there’s an electoral system in desperate need of improvement, it’s Nigeria’s gbedu.
It’s going to need more than an oil change
What are some of the electoral laws from around the world Nigeria could take some notes from? We found a few useful ones.
Automatic voter registration
Every election season, Nigerians cry about how the registration process is too frustrating and millions are denied their right to vote. In the last continuous voter registration (CVR) exercise, more than seven million people started their registration but couldn’t finish it when the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) shut the door on July 31st, 2022.
This situation can be avoided if Nigeria decides to automate the registration process. In Sweden, the electoral commission extracts information from the country’s population database. The names of all qualified citizens are included in the voter register 30 days before every election, and eligible voters receive their voter cards by post three weeks before the election.
Argentina, Chile, Hungary, Israel and the Netherlands also automatically register their citizens to vote.
If Nigeria decides to step into the 21st century and adopt this, the PVC registration process can stop looking like this:
Flexible polling units
If a voter in Nigeria relocates from the region they registered to vote, they have to apply for a transfer of polling unit to vote in their new location. This process can be quite tedious, and some people prefer to travel to their former location just to vote, even when it’s inconvenient. Most people don’t even bother.
But in Australia, voters are allowed to cast their votes at any polling unit in their state or territory. If they’re out of the territory where they’re registered to vote, they can cast their ballot at designated interstate voting centres. Mobile polling teams also move around residential care facilities and remote areas to ensure more people get to vote.
“Can we have a minute to discuss the gospel of voting?”
More than 20 countries across the world have compulsory voting laws for their citizens. Eligible citizens are required to register and vote in elections or face penalties like monetary fines or jail time.
These laws, practised in countries like Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil and Luxembourg, are intended to stimulate political interest and participation.
For a country like Nigeria where the voter turnout rate has been dropping since 2003 despite an increase in the number of voters, a compulsory voting law wouldn’t be the worst idea. No longer would youths be playing football in the streets on a day they could be deciding the fate of the country.
Nigerians in the diaspora have been itching to be a part of the electoral process for years, but the Nigerian electoral system hasn’t warmed up to the idea yet.
Nigeria can look to countries like Sweden and Australia for lessons on how to make elections more inclusive. Swedes outside Sweden are allowed to cast their votes in advance of election day as long as they’re on the electoral roll. All they need to do is send their vote by post or vote at Swedish embassies and consulates.
Countries that don’t allow diaspora voting globally are in the minority, and Nigeria is one of them. That can change if we figure out a system that works.
Electronic voting is one of Nigeria’s most prominent electoral battles, but countries like Brazil have hacked the process. Brazilian voters have been using electronic ballot boxes since 2000. An obvious advantage is the speed and transparency. Voters in Estonia also have the option of voting via the internet.
There are security concerns around electronic voting processes, but it’s not rocket science when we’re ready to commit to it.
Just gotta figure out all the buttons