AN ASSESSMENT OF VOTING MACHINE AND ITS EFFECTIVENESS DURING THE 2023 GENERAL ELECTION IN NIGERIA
1.1 Background of the study
An election must be free, fair, transparent, and credible in order to be valid. A democratic system must possess these characteristics in order to be regarded as stable and developed. Dye (2021) opines that election is a major instrument for the recruitment of political leadership in democratic societies, the key to participation in a democracy and the way of giving consent to government. According to Babalola (2019), he simply said, ‘elections are all about choosing leaders’. Zhizhi and Ibrahim (2020) election constitute an essential principle in liberal democracy.
Nigeria’s first ever Electronic Voting Election introduced in Kaduna State on February 6, 2018, the Kaduna State Independent Election Commission (KAD-SIECOM) passed the electronic election law for the introduce of electronic voting machines (EVM). The Nigerian government has effectively carried out the elections of 2023, despite encountering challenges with the utilization of card reader technology. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had procured these devices with the intention of ensuring that only eligible and authorized voters participated in the elections. Voting procedures play a significant role in the conduct of free and fair elections in a democracy. It converts voters’ preferences into a political mandate which in turn forms the basis for policy making. In practice, however, illegal efforts to shape electoral outcomes in a democracy are not uncommon (Lehoucq, 2018). However, it is often said that the federal government bears responsibility for the perceived lack of credibility in electoral processes. Identification of election technology that meets the public acceptance is as important as the election itself (Burmester & Magkos, 2003). Given the numerous potential benefits of e-voting adoption, the technology is of less important if voters are not willing to accept or use the technology. That is to say, in planning for the adoption of new technology, the robust nature of the technology is not as important as the risk of accepting it. Therefore, the task is to measure the risk, better understand it and appropriately manage it (Navarra, 2017).
Beyond that, e-Voting system has some inherent advantages over paper based voting in that beside being robust, secured and safe, it decreases voting errors substantially. Abu-Shanab, Knight and Refai (2018) conformed that using e-voting improve the convenience, efficiency and effectiveness of the election process; reduces cost of organizing election, increased participation and provide alternative option as it improve integrity of election process in general. Limitations associated to accuracy, security and verifiability inherent in the conventional paper based methods makes e-voting system an appealing option. This is owing to manual operations of the former concerning casting and counting votes. Similarly, according to Kozakova (2021) modern democracy would maximally benefit from effective implementation of electronic voting technology. If complement traditional methods, e-voting system increases chance of counting each vote and broaden the number of potential voters.
On the other hand, electronic voting is often seen as a tool for making the electoral process more efficient and for increasing trust in its management.
Similarly, Olusoji (2021) stated that properly implemented, e-voting solutions can increase the security of the ballot, speed up the processing of results,make voting easier and reduce election fraud. However, the challenges are considerable. If not carefully planned and designed, e-voting can undermine the confidence in the whole electoral process. Thus, choosing the right voting technology for a given context is essential. Knight (2018) opinionated that the e-voting machine needs to address the requirements identified and to operate reliably within the available infrastructure, taking into account the prevailing environmental conditions. To assuage the fear of the electorate and give elections credibility the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has since 2011 started with introduction of information technology into the election process, the introduction of Electronic Voters Register (EVR), Automatic Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) and Smart Card Reader (SCR). However, the passage of electoral bill into law in 2022 did not only solidify INEC legally but also empowered INEC’s usage of electronic voting (BVAS) in the conduct of elections in Nigeria.Thus the passage of the 2022 electoral bill into law by the President Mohammed Buhari government gave INEC the legal and constitutional backing to use of Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) and INEC Result Viewing Portal (IREV) in electoral process. It is believed by the stakeholders that BVAS can reduce the excessive electoral fraud, promote credible elections and reduce voter’s apathy and promote voters participation.
Furthermore, on 25 February 2023, Nigerians again exercised their democratic rights by participating in the presidential elections, even as allegations of irregularities and fraudulent practices loomed over the process. Therefore, a survey will be conducted in order to critically assess the impact of electronic voting machines on electoral fraud during the 2023 general election.
1.2 Statement of the problem
The adoption of electronic voting machines (EVMs) in the 2023 general election in Nigeria marks a significant technological shift in the electoral process. The election circle in Nigeria has been characterized with numerous problems ranging from missing names of some registered voters, intimidation and disfranchisement of voters, multiple and under aged voting, snatching or destruction of ballot boxes, mis-computation and falsification of results (Alabi, 2019; Ogbaudu, 2021). Also, poor electoral system stimulates election related violence with far reaching consequences of eroding peoples' trust and confidence in democratic process (Alemika 2018). In addition, mischief politicians and some partisan electoral officials who exploit the weaknesses of the traditional voting system to perpetrate electoral frauds have been the cause of the electoral misfortune (Ogbaudu, 2018; Abdulhamid, Adebayo, Ugiomoh, & AbdulMalik, 2018). The cumulative effect of the irregularities including but not limited to severe flawed voter lists, misuse of incumbency power, and lack of transparency; actual or perceived bias of election officials resulting to real or perceived fraud stimulate election related violence with far reaching consequence of eroding peoples' faith and confidence in democratic process (UN, 2018). The scenario explains the incident of increasing spate of violence including killings and maiming (Alemika, 2018; Nwagu, 2018). It is indicative that the existing traditional paper ballot system of voting lacks the essential ingredient of credible election such as transparency, accountability, free and fair play Alemika (2019), and is vulnerable to human error and manipulations (LeVan & Ukata, 2018).
In addition, according to Ikelebe (2016), due to the poor electoral system the aftermath elections are always characterized by crisis and litigation in election tribunals and courts (LeVan & Ukata, 2015). There is hardly any election in Nigeria where there is no complaint of election violence and malpractices (Agena, 2017). Weak electoral process always gives room for crises and the aftermath effect is weak democracy, unstable political system and illegitimate government.The 2023 general elections were highly anticipated as a crucial milestone for the nation’s democratic process. However, despite initial hopes for transparency and fairness, the elections were marred by widespreadallegations of corruption, including voter suppression, manipulation of electoral rolls, compromised officials, and the lack of accountability. It is in the light of these that a survey will be conducted on an assessment of voting machine and its effectiveness during the 2023 general election in Nigeria.
1.3 Objectives of the study
The main purpose of this study is on an assessment of voting machine and its effectiveness during the 2023 general election in Nigeria. Specifically, the study will;
1. Assess the extent electronic BVAS was adopted during the 2023 general election.
2. Determine the effectiveness of BVAS machine in facilitating the 2023 general election.
3. Identify the factors which affected the effective use of BVAS during the 2023 general election.
1.4 Research questions
The following questions have been prepared for the study:
1. To what extent was the electronic BVAS adopted and implemented during the 2023 general election in Nigeria?
2. How effective were the BVAS machines in facilitating the general election?
3. What were the factors that influenced the effective use of the BVAS during the 2023 general election?
1.6 Significance of the study
An assessment of voting machine and its effectiveness during the 2023 general election in Nigeria will be revealed to the various stakeholders, including government authorities, election management bodies, political parties, voters, and the international community. The research will enlighten Nigerian populace on the effectiveness of the voting machines and how to use it. Furthermore, this research will be useful to media house to disseminate information to a large population regarding the benefits and risks of using the EVM.
Additionally, subsequent researchers will use it as a literature review. This means that other students who may decide to conduct studies in this area will have the opportunity to use this study as available literature that can be subjected to critical review. Invariably, the result of the study contributes immensely to the body of academic knowledge with regards to an assessment of voting machine and its effectiveness during the 2023 general election in Nigeria.
1.7 Scope of the study
The scope of this study is boarded on an assessment of voting machine and its effectiveness during the 2023 general election in Nigeria. Theoretically, this study will assess the extent electronic BVAS was adopted during the 2023 general election, determine the effectiveness of BVAS machine in facilitating the 2023 general election and identify the factors which affected the effective use of BVAS during the 2023 general election.
Geographically, the study will be delimited to people in Birnin Gwari local government, Kaduna state, Nigeria.
1.8 Limitation of the study
In the course of carrying out this study, the researcher experienced some constraints, which included time constraints, financial constraints, language barriers, and the attitude of the respondents.
In addition, there was the element of researcher bias. Here, the researcher possessed some biases that may have been reflected in the way the data was collected, the type of people interviewed or sampled, and how the data gathered was interpreted thereafter. The potential for all this to influence the findings and conclusions could not be downplayed.
More so, the findings of this study are limited to the sample population in the study area, hence they may not be suitable for use in comparison to other schools, local governments, states, and other countries in the world.
In quest of carrying out this research work the researcher was not able to carry out this work in a more conclusive standard due to the following limitation.
1.9 Definition of terms
Electronic Voting Machine: is a tool for making the electoral process more efficient.
Voting : an activity of choosing someone or something in an election.
Elections: a formal and organized choice by vote of a person for a political office or other position.
BVAS: Bimodal Voters Accreditation System
Effective: successful in producing a desired or intended result.