The civil rights movement, YIAGA Africa, is calling on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to undertake an audit of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAs) before the other elections in 2022/2023.
According to the organisation, the advice became necessary following the malfunctioning of the machines during the electoral process in the Federal Capital Territory Area Council polls on Saturday.
The Executive Director of Yiaga Africa, Samson Itodo, made suggestions in Abuja while presenting findings from the FCT Area Council election.
Preliminary Statement on 2022 FCT Area Council elections
An election defined by operational deficiencies, election security challenges, and abysmal voter turnout.
— #NotTooYoungToRun (@YIAGA) February 14, 2022
He said the commission should ensure that all technical glitches with the devices are resolved ahead of Ekiti and Osun 2022 off-cycle gubernatorial elections.
Itodo insisted that a comprehensive audit of the BVAS will prevent possible disenfranchisement of voters and inspire public confidence in electoral technologies being deployed by INEC for future elections.
According to him, the usage of the BVAS machine in the FCT elections was fraught with challenges, ranging from the wrong configuration of the machine to respective polling units, failure of the machine to accredit voters, delays in RATECHs response to BVAS complaints in some polling units and delays in authenticating voters within processing time.
These challenges, he regretted, delayed the process and caused a significant burden on voters who waited patiently to be accredited to vote.
He said that on some polling units observed, INEC deployed two BVAS to polling units with a high number of registered voters.
Itodo maintains that by observation, some polling units with over 1000 registered voters, INEC deployed only one BVAS, showing an inconsistency in the guidelines for the BVAS deployment.
He said, “In per cent of the observed polling units, voters’ fingerprints were not checked using the BVAS.
Indelible ink was not applied to the cuticle of voters during Yiaga Africa’s observation in 10 per cent of the observed polling units.
“Yiaga Africa observers reported disenfranchisement of voters because of missing names on the voter register deployed to the polling unit.
In the centres where the disenfranchisement occurred, the voters were holders of valid Permanent Voter Cards assigned to those polling units.
“For such voters, INEC’s online voter verification portal also verified their registration status.
Upon further investigation by Yiaga Africa, we discovered INEC allocated voters to new polling units without informing voters of the changes to their polling units.
It created confusion and prevented some voters from casting their ballot.
“Yiaga Africa observed an imbalance in the distribution of voters to new polling units.
This imbalance created challenges with the management of polling units with over 1000 registered voters.
While some polling units have 2,500 registered voters, others have less than five voters within the same location.
Founder of Albino Foundation, Jake Epelle, said that INEC ad-hoc officials gave priority to Persons with Disabilities, elderly persons, and pregnant women in some of the polling units observed.
He, however, regretted that most voting booths were not accessible to some categories of PWDs.
Epelle maintained that reports from observers showed that many Polling Officers were not aware of some of the assistive devices such as braille.
“Our observers note that voting aids for voters with disabilities were not available in 85 per cent of the PUs observed and where they were, the items were not usable.
“For instance, INEC deployed leaflets instead of standard braille guides to the PUs in the colony of persons with disabilities in Karon-Majigi of Gwarimpa Ward, AMAC as reported by Inclusive Friends Association,” he said.
Rights Association calls for audit of BVAs