Senate Approves Card Readers for 2019 General Elections

The Senate on Tuesday approved the use of card reader for the conduct of the 2019 general elections, as it passed the Electoral Amendment bill for third reading.

The upper chamber said where the card reader malfunctioned and another one was not deployed within three hours to the end of voting, election in such unit should be cancelled and a new card reader deployed within 24 hours for a fresh election.

Though the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) deployed the card reader for the 2015 polls, there was no such provision in the Electoral Act at the time.

The current amendment followed the adoption of the report of the Committee on Electoral Matters and INEC, during which Senate President Bukola Saraki commended his colleagues for their determination to pass the amendment before elections.

Saraki also assured them that the Senate would immediately transmit the passed bill to the House of Representatives for concurrence, calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to sign it into law when it is eventually transmitted to him.

The inclusion of the card reader ‎was through an amendment to Section 49, by inserting a new subsection (2) ,which states that: “The Presiding Officer shall use a Smart Card Reader or any other similar technological device that may be prescribed by the Commission, for the purpose of accreditation of voters, to verify, confirm or authenticate the particulars of the voter in the manner prescribed by the Commission.”

A new subsection (4) of provides that “where a Smart Card Reader deployed for accreditation of voter fails to function in any unit and a fresh card reader is not deployed 3 hours before the close of the election in that unit or units, then the election shall not hold but be rescheduled and conducted within 24 hours thereafter.”

However, a proviso under the same subsection says: “provided that where the total possible votes from all the affected card readers in the unit or units does not affect the overall result in the constituency or election concerned, the commission shall notwithstanding the fact that a fresh card reader is not deployed as stipulated, announce the final results and declare a winner.”

Similarly, the Senate approved N5bn as the maximum campaign fund for a presidential candidate and N1bn for governorship candidate, as against the N1 billion and N200 million that obtained at the moment.

As for senators and members of the House of Representatives, the campaign fund has been pegged at ‎N250m and N100m respectively from the current N40m and N20m.

As for donations to candidates, an amendment provides that no individual shall donate more than N10m, and that any candidate that knowingly accepts an amount above that shall pay one percent of the amount permitted or be imprisoned for a period not exceeding 12 months.

Furthermore, the sequence for primary elections of political parties was amended in the following order: National Assembly, State Houses of Assembly, Governorship and Presidential.

The dates for the primaries shall not be earlier than 150 days and not later than 90 days before the date of elections.

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