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2023 general election: What you should know about invalid vote

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By Mustapha Usman- January 30, 2023

THE increasing number of invalid votes has been a major concern for Nigerians going into the 2023 general elections, as there may be a run-off of elections if the invalid votes are above or close to the margin of victory.

An invalid vote is a vote that doesn’t count when deciding who wins the election.

A closer look by The ICIR’s into the past presidential elections reveals that the number of invalid votes recorded in 2019 was higher than that of 2015.

Data obtained from the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, shows that the number of invalid votes gathered during the 2011 Presidential election was 1,259, 506 out of the 39,469,484 total votes cast.

The number dropped in 2015, as the electoral body recorded 844,519 invalid votes out of the total number of votes cast (29,432,083).

The invalid votes represent 3.19 and 2.87 per cent of the 2011 and 2015 presidential elections, respectively.

Infographics showing the number of invalid votes in the previous elections

However, the invalid vote was on the rise again in the 2019 presidential election as the electoral body recorded 1,289,607 invalid votes, which translates to 4.5 per cent of the total votes cast (28,614,190).

The All Progressive Congress  (APC) won the election with a margin of about 3.9 million votes after gathering 15,191,847 votes across the country. The PDP emerged runner-up with 11,262,978 votes.

Meanwhile, The ICIR gathered that the invalid votes recorded in the 2019 election were far above the number of votes gathered by the other 71 parties.

The 71 parties altogether polled three per cent of the total votes cast by Nigerians.

The situation is no different despite multiple sensitisations and voter’s education before the recent gubernatorial elections that took place in Anambra, Ekiti and Osun state.

During the Anambra Governorship election in 2021, INEC recorded 8,108 invalid votes out of the 249,631 total votes cast.

In 2022, both Ekiti and Osun recorded 8,888 and 18,674 rejected votes during their gubernatorial elections, respectively.

What makes your vote invalid:

  1. When assessing the validity of a vote, below are what makes a vote invalid and such will be rejected by INEC:
  2. Disruption at the voting point will lead to the cancellation of votes.
  3. Using ballot paper which is not officially produced.
  4. A ballot paper having marks or any form of indentation.
  5. Double thumbprint/ multiple thumbprints on a ballot paper.
  6. Thumb printing outside the delegated box for thumbprints.
  7. Using blank ballot paper to vote.
  8. When a person intentionally spoils his or her ballot paper
  9. The ballot is valid for a different constituency or polling unit

How can invalid vote be minimised

Speaking to The ICIR on how to minimise invalid votes in the 2023 elections, one of the officials of GoVote – a platform that educates Nigerians on how to register to vote, Aminu Muhammad Daban, said the best way to reduce the menace is by exposing the electorate to adequate awareness and voter’s education.

“I think it all boils down to electoral education and lack of adequate awareness on how to vote correctly without tendering their votes invalid,” Daban said.

Daban added that “It’s also because most people vote with their thumbs which are usually bigger than the box. At GoVote, we educate electorates on the need to vote correctly and how to vote correctly using their index fingers. We do this by carrying demo sessions with dummy ballot papers.”

According to him, the solution is to increase awareness and advocacy in rural areas, adding that INEC should also make the boxes in the ballot paper larger for an average thumb.

He said, “The solution is two ways: increase awareness and education on how to vote correctly through grassroots advocacy in rural and hard-to-reach communities. Also, INEC could try to make the boxes larger for an average thumb to fit in comfortably without exceeding or touching the lines.”

*Additional research was done by James Emmanuel.

Produced in partnership with the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) with support from Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO).

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