The National Orientation Agency (NOA) has flagged off a nationwide sensitisation campaign to tackle the incidence of invalid and voided votes in the 2019 general elections.
NOA Director General, Garba Abari, explained that the campaign was necessary as about three million invalid and void votes were recorded in the 2015 presidential election.
He told a gathering on Thursday at an event to launch the campaign in Owerri, the Imo State capital, that the figure outnumbered the difference between the votes of the winner and the runner up in the poll.
Mr Abari identified the incidence of voided votes as a matter of concern to stakeholders in the country, as the number of voided votes was so high in most cases that it could sway the results of elections.
He was hopeful that the prevailing occurrence can be brought to its barest minimal with the nationwide campaign against voided votes.
The NOA boss said aside from the challenge of void votes, the agency was also concerned about the issue of vote buying and selling.
He warned that this can derail the nation’s democratic process if not tackled through mass sensitisation and awareness creation.
Mr Abari noted that the 2019 election has the highest number of presidential candidates and political parties in the history of polls in the country.
According to him, this will affect the size and length of the ballot paper, therefore, making voter education on invalid votes very important.
The NOA DG called on all political parties to educate their supporters on identifying their party’s logo to minimising the incidence of invalid votes.
He also asked voters to listen carefully to the instructions of the presiding officer at the polling units and ensure they append their thumbprint inside their preferred political party’s box.
Mr Abari said no voter should leave his/her box empty and ensure thumbprint in only one box and within the space provided for a preferred candidate.
NOA Director in Imo, Vitus Ekeocha, who also addressed the gathering said the agency has the mandate to ensure free, fair and credible elections through public enlightenment.
He added that they would ensure the votes of the electorate count by sensitising them on how to reduce the incidence of voided votes.
On its part, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) believes the electorate must first get their Permanent Voter’s Cards (PVCs).
The Resident Electoral Commissioner in the state, Mr Francis Ezeonu, disclosed that 637,179 people have yet to collect their PVCs out of the 2,270,216 registered voters in Imo.
He, therefore, urged the residents to come for their PVCs in order to exercise their franchise as provided by the Constitution.
Also present at the event were representatives of Civil society groups, religious leaders, and traditional rulers, among other stakeholders.