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WAY-TO BALLOT

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					INTRODUCTION

One of the most important civic responsibilities any citizen
owes its country is to vote during election. It is very important that everybody discharges this responsibility once it is time for it. For a smooth running of a state, there should be a people’s leader to represent their interest. This leader in a democratic set up must be chosen through an election. This will bring about legitimate government, which holds the needs of the people at heart. It is therefore vital that people participate in making this choice. WHAT ABOUT ‘WAY TO BALLOT’? Voting is a civic responsibility of all qualified citizens of Nigeria. It is a legitimate way of choosing leaders in a democratic setting. Many people do not know what voting is, some others who know, do not like voting, many more who may like to vote during elections may not know how to start. Quite a good number of people also do not understand why they should vote. “Way to Ballot” is designed in a simplified manner to help electorates and other readers understand the important and elementary aspects of Ballot. The aim of this manual is therefore to:  Inculcate and promote good voting culture in Nigeria;  Remind people of their right to vote;  Provide summary information on election processes;  Sensitize people on the importance of ballot and a good culture of voting for better tomorrow.

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WHAT IS BALLOT? Ballot is the practice of selecting a representative through voting. The word “Ballot” could also be used to refer to the total votes cast at an election or the paper given to voters to indicate their choice of political party and/or candidate. WHO SHOULD VOTE? Voting is open to all Nigerian citizens whether men or women, boys or girls who are up to eighteen years and above. Educational status, marital status, social or political position does not place any barrier to voting. However, for one to vote, one should properly register and acquire the voter’s card as a pre-requisite for voting.

Helen, come let us go and vote.

Hey! Tony, remember we are not up to 18yrs, the voting age in Nigeria.

THE WAY TO GET STARTED For one to vote in an election, the first step is to register during the voters’ registration exercise and acquire a voter’s identity card. The exercise enables the registration officer to check whether the person to be registered is up to eighteen 2

years and thereafter document the person’s residential address, sex and other vital facts.
If you must vote during election, register during the voters’ registration exercise

If you must contest, join a political party now!

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It is very necessary and proper for every intending voter to know the names of the contesting candidates and the particular one to vote for. In addition to this, it is important to know the different political parties and their symbols. This will enable voters determine their choice before hand and vote accurately for their right candidates and political parties. Citizens who wish to contest for any position during elections should first of all join a political party of their choice. They will then seek for nomination, which is usually done through a process, called party primary election. If one wins at this level, one can then come out to contest under the platform of that particular political party in the general election.

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RIGHTS OF REGISTERED VOTERS  All registered voters have the constitutional right to cast their vote for the candidate or political party of their choice;  Voters have the right to cast their votes without fear of intimidation or violence;  Voters are entitled to vote in an enabling environment that will guarantee free and fair elections;  Voters have the right to vote only once in any particular election;  Voters have the right to know the total number of registered voters at a polling station and the number that voted after all;  Prior to Election Day, voters are entitled to have access to all parties’ views and positions, this is to enable them make their choice accordingly.

Chike, come let me tell you the party to vote for.

No! I have the right to make my choice.

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WHO ARE PERSONNEL INVOLVED? There are many officials involved in carrying out electoral activities, they include: 1. Supervisory Presiding Officers (SPO): Each SPO is in-charge of a number of Polling Stations not exceeding ten in number. They make sure that electoral materials are available and on time too at each Polling Stations under their supervision. The custody of the election results from various Polling Stations to the Collation Centres is trusted in their hands. Presiding Officers: They set up the Polling Stations and receive all necessary materials from the Supervisory Presiding Officers. They also have Charge over the Poll Clerks, Poll Orderlies and the Security Agents assigned to their Polling Stations. Before voting, the Presiding Officers are responsible for all accreditation of voters to identify qualified voters. Counting of votes and recording of results are also part of their duties in the electoral process. Poll Clerks: They act as assistants to the Presiding Officers. They help in collection of materials, setting up of the Polling Stations and directing voters to follow the laid down procedures. Poll Orderlies: They are entrusted with the maintenance of law and order in the Polling Station and also to regulate the movement of voters within the Polling Station. Poll Orderlies usually stand behind the last voter in the queue at the close of accreditation to prevent non-accredited persons from joining the queue to vote. Returning Officers: They are in-charge of election results returned by Presiding Officers from various

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Polling Stations. They are also to announce the number of votes scored by each candidate in every ward. Party Agents: They are present at Polling Stations to protect the interest of their different political parties. This they do by monitoring the election procedures and signing the result forms on behalf of the Political Parties they represent. Monitor/Observers: These are trained personnel who watch over polls and observe the processes in order to determine whether it is held in accordance with the due process, and whether it can produce a free and fair election.

WHAT IS BALLOT BOX? This is the box where voters put their ballot papers after casting their votes. The box nowadays is made of transparent materials so that ballot papers dropped into it could be easily seen. The box should always be locked during the poll until it is counting time. HOW TO CAST BALLOT Casting of vote is done either openly or secretly depending on the electoral system in practice.  In a Secret Ballot system, voters are made to line up in queues in the polling station;  Electoral Officials seat ready with the electoral materials set for use;  In turn, voters present their official registration cards to the Presiding Officer for accreditation, cards of accredited persons are endorsed;

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 When it is time for voting, voters must queue up again to ensure a smooth exercise;  The Electoral Officers mark voter’s hand with harmless indelible ink. This is to enable electoral officers check whether a person has voted before or not;  A ballot paper is given to the voter to take into the voting booth. Inside the secluded booth, voter indicates choice of party or candidate by thumb printing against it, folding the paper carefully and dropping into the ballot box;  At the end of poll, Returning Officer opens the box and counts the ballot in front of all present and announces the result. In an Open Ballot System:  Voters must queue up for proper accreditation using their registration cards;  The different parties’ symbols or pictures of contesting candidates are displayed;  Voters are directed by the Electoral Officials to queue up for the candidates or parties of their choice;  Voters are counted openly and loudly and the number of people in each queue recorded on result sheet;  The result is announced to all present at the Polling Station.

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Voters must queue up to ensure smooth exercise. Jumping of queue causes chaos and confusion!

WHO CAN VOTE DURING ELECTION? In Nigeria, the minimum age requirement for any voter is eighteen (18) years. Once a citizen is of this age, the person has the right to cast his/her vote during election irrespective of sex, age, position, locality or qualification. In other words, men and women including youths that are 18 years and above are eligible to register and cast their votes during elections. POLLING STATIONS A Polling Station is a venue where electorates go to cast their votes. Public buildings or places could be designated as Polling stations or units. Such include government schools and community centres. Private homes, on the other hand should not be used for such purposes, example include the residences and palaces of traditional rulers, places of worship and clubhouses. 8

The Electoral Law prohibits the use of any of these places as Polling Station.

Church

Mosque

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Polling Stations should be located at reasonable ranges so that people will not have to travel far distances to cast their votes. It is also important to maintain the time set aside for the exercise to enable electorates cast their vote and leave the polling station in due course. For ballot to commence, all necessary arrangements must have been completed, the Presiding Officers, Political Party Agents, Security Agents, Monitor should be seen at the Polling Station. Other materials needed such as ballot box, ballot papers, register, ink, result sheets should also be ready. WHY VOTE DURING ELECTION?  Voting is a right and one of the ways of expressing the civic responsibility of a citizen;  Voting involves participation, which is an element of democracy that helps to shape the country into a better one;  Through voting democracy can be brought to a nation to promote equal opportunity for all;  The outcome of election determines the economic, political and social status of the country.  Always remember that your vote can make a difference. Some people do not vote during election because of ignorance; people are not informed about the importance of voting. Others are not aware of the time for various electoral activities such as registration and time for voting. Ignorance of the existing political parties and contesting candidates has a way of discouraging people from voting.

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Other reasons why some people do not vote during elections include the following:  Election malpractices: As a result of rampant rigging which has characterized our past elections, people are no longer encouraged to come out and vote during elections;  Violence: Some people feel unsecured during election activities. This is because thugs and touts have the tendency of causing confusion at Polling Stations. This act deters some intending voters from performing this civic responsibility. The government should put in place adequate measures to protect all electorates.  Poverty: Because of the poor economic situation of the country, many people will prefer to go about their normal businesses such as trading, farming and others alike to make money to coming out to vote on election day.  Interest: some people due to one reason or the other such as cultural and religious inclination are apathetic to political activities. They do not have the least interest to vote or take part in other state matters.  Disillusionment from bad rulership: some of our leaders are not accountable to the people who elected them. Once they assume office they often forget electoral promises and the needs of their respective constituency. This trend has made some people to lose interest and confidence in elections.

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These points or reasons not withstanding, people should be motivated to vote in order to enthrone a true democratic government. When only a few people vote, the real choice of the majority will be misrepresented. Every adult citizen of Nigeria who is up to 18 years and above are encouraged to vote during elections. The fact remains that anyone who does not take active part in enthroning a government cannot avoid being affected by that government either directly or indirectly. Therefore it is always better for all to get involved. ELECTION MALPRACTICES Election malpractices are acts, which do not conform to the laid down rules of election. Some of the common election malpractices are:  Double voting: Some electorates vote more than once while the law permits only one man/woman to one vote. It is an offence to vote more than once.

You are under arrest for possession of two voters’ cards

Oga, I beg ooh!

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 Stuffing of ballot box with ballot papers: This is a common practice where there are no genuine securities and election monitors to guard the process. It is very unpatriotic and undemocratic for anybody to engage in this act and in fact any other type of election malpractice.  Absconding with ballot boxes: There are instances where some over zealous voters snatch and make away with ballot boxes. This is usually the case where they feel that their supporters are losing.  Mutilation of election result sheets and falsification of election results: This means tampering with the election result by way of tearing it or trying to change the figures already recorded. There are other offences such as where an under aged person tries to vote, possession of double voter’s card and preventing a properly registered voter from voting. The Electoral Law specified different punishments for anyone found guilty of any of these offences.

Take this money and vote for me.

Know that both the Giver and Receiver are guilty!

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ELECTION WINNERS AND LOSERS In every election, there must be a winner and a loser. The political party that wins becomes the ruling party while others are the opposing parties. In a true democratic setting, the ruling party is supposed to follow the party’s programme and try to fulfill promises made during campaign. The opposing parties on the other hand are meant to act as watchdogs over the activities of the ruling party. This is by making good suggestions for the general well being of the society as well as making positive criticism in areas the ruling party is not doing well. Their relationship should not be that of cats and dogs but complimentary. Opposing political parties should always wait patiently for subsequent elections to seek opportunity to get elected. The importance of opposition parties need not be overemphasized. They act as watchdogs over the activities of the ruling party to make sure that there is no abuse of power. The ruling party being aware that it is monitored by other parties becomes mindful of its activities and programmes. ELECTION TRIBUNALS/COURTS After elections, any contestant who is not satisfied with the conduct or result of the election has the right to submit an election petition, which shall be presented, to the Tribunal or Court within 30 days from the date the result of the election is declared. Election petition can be presented either by a candidate at an election or a political party which participated at the election.

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Following the Nigeria Electoral Act, any appeal arising in respect of an election petition shall in the case of Presidential election; lie to the Supreme Court while in the case of all other elections, the Court of Appeal takes charge.
I disagree with the result. Candidate ‘A’ is not constitutionally ‘Returned’.

This result is nullified because candidate ‘A’ did not score the majority of the valid votes cast.

The Tribunal or Court has power to nullify any election if it determines that a candidate who was returned was not validly elected on any ground or where it determines that such candidate who was returned as elected was not validly elected on the ground that he did not score the majority of valid votes cast at the election. The Election Tribunal or Court shall not invalidate any election for reason of non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act if it appears to them that such election was

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conducted substantially in accordance with the Act and that the non-compliance did not affect substantially the result of the election. Conclusion: The need for everyone to get actively involved during elections has been brought to fore. Inactiveness does not profit the citizens and does not promote democracy. When leaders are chosen following a free and fair election, they should demonstrate high sense of accountability and transparency by not only following the laid down party policies for which they were elected but also upholding the principles of constitutionalism. All citizens including opposing political parties should support the ruling party and encourage them so as to achieve their objectives. It is worthwhile therefore for all to work hard to nurture our nascent democracy and make Nigeria a comfortable living place.

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ABOUT WACOL

Women’s

Aid Collective (WACOL) is a nongovernmental, non profit making organization registered as a company limited by guarantee with Corporate Affairs Commission (No. RC. 388132) and has an observer status with the African Commission on Human and People Rights. WACOL is committed to promoting human rights of women and young people. We are gender conscious and work towards gender equality and human rights for all. Our vision is a society free from violence, all forms of abuses, where human rights of all, in particular women and young people are recognized in law and practice. ISBN: 978 – 35477 – 9 - 8

Women’s Aid Collective (WACOL)
Head Office: Branch Office: No. 9, Umuezebi Street, 10 Evelyn‟s Close, off Evo Rd. off Upper Chime Avenue, G.R.A. Phase II, New Haven, P. O. Box 10369, Port Harcourt P. O. Box 2718, Enugu, Rivers State, Nigeria. Enugu State, Nigeria Tel: 084-572948; 080-23136133 Tel: 042-256678 E-mail: wacolph@yahoo.com Fax: 042-256831 E-mail: wacolnig@yahoo.com wacol@alpa.linkserve.com

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WAY TO BALLOT:
A Practical Guide to Voting in Nigeria

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DFID
Funded by: DFID Under the Nigeria Governance Fund (Managed by the British Council)

Published by: Women’s Aid Collective (WACOL)

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Published by:

Women’s Aid Collective (WACOL)
Prepared by: Ifeoma Chinwe Anya Edited by: Joy Ngozi Ezeilo Typesetter: Eunice Ifetoye Cover Design/Illustration, Eze Okocha Eze A Publication of Women’s Aid Collective, funded by DFID under the Nigeria Governance Fund (Managed by British Council Nigeria). © Women‟s Aid Collective, 2002 “This document is an output from a project funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) for the benefit of the Federal Government of Nigeria. The views expressed are not necessarily those of DFID” ISBN: 978 – 35477 – 9 - 8 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form, or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior written permission of the copyright owner.

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Table of Content Introduction What About „Way to Ballot‟? What is Ballot? Who Should Vote? The Way to Get Started Rights of Registered Voters Who are Personnel Involved? What is Ballot Box? How to Cast Ballot Who Can Vote During Election? Polling Stations Why Vote During Election? Election Malpractices Election Winners and Losers Election Tribunals/Courts Conclusion

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