INEC polling units to be COVID-19 compliant in next polls

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INEC Chairman, Prof. Yakubu

THE Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is looking ahead to ensure that the conduct of future polls from the polling booths, number of voters at polling units are structured to comply with measures to suit COVID-19 decorum.

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In a document released on Monday in Abuja, ‘Policy on Conducting Elections in the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic’ the chairman of INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, stated that the new regime will take notice of social distancing, wearing of face masks and personal hygienic.

Although he pointed out that no voter will be  allowed at any polling unit, he said that, “the Assistant Presiding Officer (APO) II in checking the Register of Voters may request removal of mask to prevent voter impersonation.”

At every polling unit, tables and chairs shall be routinely disinfected same as the Card Readers, which shall be cleaned after a voter’s fingerprint is decoded, while every polling worker will have safety clothing and any other relevant personal  protective equipment (PPE).

In elaborating the new protocols, he said, that polls shall commence as early as 8.30 a.m. and close at 2.30 p.m. to effectively accommodate the new activities.

He added that, “there shall be a two-tier queuing system at the Polling Unit, one outside and the other in the voting area. Voters will be brought into the voting area periodically to prevent overcrowding.

“Anybody on the outer queue by 2.30 pm shall be allowed to vote, in line with INEC  regulations.”

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At the end of voting, the INEC boss said that all polling materials would be disinfected, carefully packaged and used PPE packaged or disposed.

And for purposes of collation of results after election, efforts will be made to prevent overcrowding. 

He said:  “Only one polling agent of a party on the ballot (or the candidate in person) for the election(s) shall be allowed into the collation hall.

“All post-election debriefings shall be done electronically and where face-to-face debriefings take place, the protocols for COVID-19 prevention shall be followed.”

Ahead of future polls, Yakubu called for a review of guidelines and manuals in the light of changes to the electoral process due to COVID-19.

He called for the development of “a Voter Code of Conduct (VCC) document detailing how voters are expected to act at the polling units; a review of all Elections Information Kits to include COVID-19 information.

“Pilot changes to the electoral process in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic in a by-election prior to the Edo and Ondo governorship elections in order to learn lessons where necessary.”

While noting that the need to reduce the number of contacts during distribution of electoral materials, he added that to reduce the risk of transmission of the coronavirus, INEC will reduce to a minimum interstate movement of staff, including ad hoc staff, for off-season and by-elections.

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