The Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO) has raised concerns over the failure of the Electoral Commission (EC) to ensure full adherence of COVID-19 safety measures in the ongoing mass voter registration exercise.
This was one of the major findings of CODEO within the first phase of the registration process which ended on Sunday, July 5, 2020.
CODEO in its report noted that some of the COVID-19 safety protocols, especially social distancing among applicants was breached – a situation the election monitoring group describes as very worrisome.
It has therefore asked the electoral management body to as a matter of urgency intensify efforts to ensure that registrants abide by the safety guidelines in order to prevent the spread of the virus at the registration centres.
“CODEO is worried that there is some level of laxity in the respect for the COVID-19 health and safety protocols, particularly the lack of social distancing at some registration centres observed. Accordingly, CODEO calls on the Electoral Commission to consider additional mechanisms for enhancing the effectiveness of the respect for health and safety protocols at all registration centres at all times”, the report said.
CODEO’s observation of COVID-19 health and safety protocols
1. Observers reported that in some instances (28%), registration officials could not ensure that there was a two-meter distance between registration applicants in queue. Observers reported instances of overcrowding of people outside of the inner perimeters of registration centers. This is in spite of the fact that most registration centers (91%) were found by observers to be spacious enough to allow for the necessary social distancing arrangement. However, about 9% of the registration centers observed lacked the required space to enforce the relevant social distancing protocols for registration applicants.
2. Observers indicated that in most cases (92%), registration officials checked the temperature of registration applicants before they were admitted into registration centers. However, this was not done in some cases (8%). In a few instances, some applicants were turned away from a registration center by officials because of their high body temperature.
3. In nearly all instances (99%), registration centers had hand-washing facilities (soap and buckets with water) mounted and available. Hand-washing was strictly enforced by registration officials in most cases (82%). In 18% of the time however, handwashing was not strictly enforced. Observers also indicated that in a few cases (4%), there was a shortage of some of the hand-washing facilities at some point in the registration exercise.
4, Registration officials did not always wipe or clean the surface of the fingerprint scanners after applicants used them. Observers indicated that officials “always” did so only in 4 in 10 (43%) cases, and “often” or “sometimes” in the majority (55%) of cases. At a few instances (2%), the officials ‘never’ wiped or cleaned the surface of the fingerprint scanners after applicants used them.
According to CODEO, one of the major factors accounting for the large gatherings at the various registration centres across the country is the lack of awareness of the phased movement plan being used by the Electoral Commission.
It has thus urged electoral officials to increase the level of education on the movement plan that has been developed for the registration.
“The EC must intensify public awareness about the movement plan of registration teams to enhance public awareness and understanding about the mode of the registration exercise so that people do not continue to gather at registration centres when they do not have to do so”, CODEO proposed.
CODEO has deployed 100 observers for the ongoing Biometric Voter Registration Exercise being carried out by the EC across the country.
CODEO has an observer each in 100 randomly and purposively selected constituencies spread across the 16 regions of the country.
At the end of phase one of the registration exercise, the CODEO Secretariat received a total of 575 daily observation reports from 100 constituencies from the 30th of June to July 5, 2020.
The entire voter registration exercise will end on August 6, 2020.
What EC is doing about overcrowding
Since the beginning of the voter registration exercise, one of the assessments that have heavily featured is the concerns over the lack of social distancing at the centres.
As a result, the EC has introduced what it calls the queue management system at all of its registration centres to tackle issues with overcrowding.
The queue management system will ensure that the first 150 applicants who arrive at the registration centres will be provided with “numbered chits”, according to the EC.
The first half of this number will be served from morning to early afternoon, while the second half will be asked to leave the centres and return in the afternoon when the registration process for the first batch has been completed.
The ongoing mass voters’ registration exercise across the country has entered phase two and is expected to run till Saturday, July 11, 2020, at each of the five registration centres across 6,788 clusters nationwide.
The mass registration exercise is being conducted in five phases. Registration officers will spend six days at a particular centre during each phase.
The registration exercise is taking place at all the 33,367 polling stations.
When phase two commenced, the EC said 267 public education vans have been deployed nationwide to create more awareness on the exercise.