Senate resolves death of candidate, okays manual accreditation for polls

OrderPaperToday – The Senate on Thursday moved closer to passing a sixth amendment to 2010 Electoral Act to cater for the gap occasioned by the death of a candidate when an election is yet to be concluded.

The new bill also provides for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to suspend the conduct of the election for 21 days when a candidate dies before the exercise is concluded.

The bill is an answer to the situation which arose in Kogi State following the sudden death of the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Abubakar Audu, in the November 21, 2015 governorship election before the conclusion of ballot.

The situation generated a long legal dispute from the High Court to the Supreme Court as late Audu’s running mate, James Faleke, pressed to automatically inherit the votes of the deceased candidate but eventually failed in the bid.

It is against this background that the Senate inserted a new Section 3 into the new Electoral Act. The section provides that: “If after the commencement of poll and before the announcement of the final result and declaration of a winner, a nominated candidate dies, (a ) the Commission shall, being satisfied of the fact of the death, suspend the election for a period not exceeding 21 days; (b) the political party whose candidate died may, if it intends to continue to participate in the election, conduct a fresh direct primary within 14 days of the death of its candidate and submit a new candidate to the Commission to replace the dead candidate; and (c) subject to paragraphs (a) and (b) of this subsection, the Commission shall continue with the election, announce the final result and declare a winner.”

The new bill which could not be passed due to suspension of the clause-by-clause consideration, also gives legal backing for the use of manual accreditation in situations where card readers malfunction.

Since the card reader is mainly needed for accreditation, the new amendment provides that once the presiding officer at the election is convinced that the intending voter is the owner of the voter card, he should go ahead to accredit him.

Thus Section 49(1-4) of the Electoral Act being amended, provides that: “The Presiding Officer shall use a Smart Card Reader or any other technological device that may be prescribed by the Commission from time to time for the accreditation of voters, to verify, confirm or authenticate (a) the genuineness or otherwise of the voter’s card; (b) that the voter’s card presented by the voter is registered at the polling unit in the constituency in which the card is presented; (c) the biometric connection or otherwise of the intending voter with the voter’s card; and (d) the number of duly accredited voters in the polling unit.

“(3) An intending voter shall not be accredited to vote in an election if the voter’s card presented by him to the Presiding Officer is not (a) a genuine voter’s card issued by the Commission to the intending voter; (b) registered at the polling unit in the constituency in which the card is presented, and (c) biometrically connected to the intending voter.

“(4) Notwithstanding paragraph (3) (c) of this section, the Presiding Officer on being satisfied that an intending voter is the owner of the voter’s card, may accredit the intending voter to vote in the election.”

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