As someone who will be voting for the first time, what should you know before heading to your polling unit on election day?
The February 25, 2023, presidential election promises to be intriguing for many reasons, especially for the millions of voters who will be inducted into the Nigerian voting process.
Barring any change in momentum, the evidence on the ground suggests more Nigerians are willing to vote in the upcoming election than ever recorded before.
While this trend portends a positive omen for the nation’s growing democracy, it’s important that the uninitiated voters have all the foreknowledge of how the voting process works at the polling unit.
For the uninitiated who’s voting for the first time, it’s useful to understand all the important steps of voting in a Nigerian election.
When you get to your polling unit, it’s either you meet a queue or asked to form one, depending on how early or late you arrive at the venue. At this point, the essence is to maintain orderliness while the INEC officials verify each voter and determine they’re at the right polling unit.
When you get to the front of the queue, you’ll present your Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC) to the INEC officials for verification and authentication. You won’t be able to vote without your PVC, so it’s important that you leave your house with it.
The INEC officials will scan the barcode on your PVC or enter the last six digits of your Voter Identity Number (VIN) or type in your last name on the Bimodal Voter Registration System (BVAS) for confirmation.
The official would then do a fingerprint and/or facial scan on BVAS to ensure your biometrics match what the PVC presented on the machine.
This is what you came for, after all. Once officials have certified you’re a genuine voter at the right polling unit, then you’re qualified to cast your vote. Accreditation and voting will take place simultaneously.
To vote, you’d be issued a ballot paper which you’d take into a voting booth where you’ll find an ink pad. You’re required to press your thumb on the pad to collect some ink and place the ink-soaked finger in the box in front of your preferred party.
You must be careful when thumbprinting and make sure the ink doesn’t cross the line to another party’s box. If this happens, your vote will be null and void and your candidate will lose an important vote.
After thumbprinting, you should then fold your ballot paper neatly with the plain side outside — that is if you care about people finding out who you voted for — and drop it inside the ballot box.
Sorting of votes
This will happen after every registered voter who showed up at the polling unit has voted after the time stipulated for the conclusion of voting has elapsed.
At this point, the rest of the task primarily rests with INEC officials and party agents. So, as a voter, you can choose to return home and start premature celebrations over your candidate’s victory or stay back to witness the sorting and counting of votes.
Here, the presiding officer will pick the ballot papers from the box one after the other and arrange them according to party.
The officials are obligated to count and tally the votes of each party publicly in the presence of party agents and voters at the polling unit. The final tallies will be recorded on a form provided by INEC before being forwarded for further collation.
Collation of votes and declaration of result
Collation of votes progresses from the wards, to the local governments, to the state (for a governorship election), and then federal (for a presidential election). And unless you’re a party agent or someone that’s really determined to follow the votes all the way, your input is not required at this stage.
The total of results across each collation level is recorded and the candidate with the highest number of votes, and who has fulfilled other constitutional conditions, will be declared the winner of the election by a returning officer.