By Douglas Okoro
Abakaliki -The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Ebonyi Monday bagan a two-day training for Electoral Officers on methods and principles for the proposed polling units in the state.
The Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in the state, Dr Joseph Chukwu, who declared the workshop open in Abakiliki, said the training would help INEC to determine where to locate the polling units and how to convert voting points to polling units.
According to him, before the training, the electoral officers were directed to go to their local government areas to determine possible new polling unit locations and the distances from the existing ones.
He said the state had 1,785 polling units but pointed out that the number might not accomodate the increasing number of qualified voters that would turnout during the voter registration.
“The training is to build the capacity of the officers on the method and principles of implementation of expansion of voter access to polling units in Nigeria.
“Expanding voter access to polling units is part of the commission’s strategies to enhance more voter participation in the voting and other electoral processes, including voter registration and voter verification exercises,” he said.
He said expanding voter access initiative would bring polling units closer to the electorate by eliminating challenges of distance and over crowding at polling units.
“Since 1999, Nigeria has not increased the number of polling units, in spite of the surge in the number of qualified registered voters.
“Since the return to democracy and conduct of the first election in 1999 to date, we have been using the same number of polling units.
“Yet, before every election period, we conduct voter registration for new eligible voters.
“So this initiative is to expand the number of polling units from the existing ones and voting points, not only in Ebonyi but throughout the country.
“The exercise will allow for more voters, who are usually disenfranchised, either due to the distance of the polling units from their residential areas or as a result of over crowding.
“When we bring polling units closer to the electorate by expanding voter access, it will enhance credible voting process and allow more electorate to vote,” Chukwu said.
He said the commission would soon begin to engage stakeholders and solicit their support for the smooth take off of the pre-2023 election programmes and conduct of free, fair and transparent election in 2023.
The REC gave assurance that the commission would leverage the Constitution and Electoral Act to conduct free, credible and transparent election in 2023.