– As Senate amends electoral law
SENATE yesterday laid to rest the controversy on who succeeds a dead governorship or presidential candidate who dies before the announcement of the result of an election, as a new bill provides for the conduct of a fresh primary within 14 days to choose a new candidate. The bill, which is sixth amendment to the 2010 Electoral Act, also provides that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, shall suspend the conduct of a new election for 21 days when the death of a candidate is recorded after the commencement of an election and before the announcement of result. The new provision was spurred by the sudden death of the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Abubakar Audu, at the November 21, 2015, governorship election in Kogi State before the announcement of the election result. The situation generated a wide range
of disputes which were contested from the high court to the Supreme Court, as his running mate, James Faleke, believed that he must automatically inherit the votes of the deceased candidate. But he lost the case from the lower court to the apex court. Against this background, a new Section 3 has been inserted into the new Electoral Act, which 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 also provides a legal backing for the use of manual voting in situations where card readers malfunction. Whereas the manual option has always been adopted as an alternative to the malfunctioning of card readers, the new provision is meant to make the action legally valid. 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.” However, the Senate could not pass the bill yesterday because it did not conclude its clause-by-clause consideration and hence deferred further consideration of the bill till another legislative day.