What is an electoral act?

Dec 20, 2022|Stears Explains

An electoral act is the necessary legislative instrument that guides, oversees and manages the administration of an election. It includes rules and regulations that empower relevant agencies, especially the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to conduct the elections legally. 

Electoral acts are passed at the national level when they affect INEC, a federal institution. This is why, unlike a constitutional amendment, it does not need to go through the state houses of assembly.

Who is involved in the creation of an electoral act?

Like any legislation, an electoral act is subject to the bill-passing process. This involves a first reading, where it is formally read on the floor of the chamber of the National Assembly—either the House of Representatives or the Senate, depending on which house is introducing the bill. After this, there is a second reading where legislators on the house it was introduced debate the merits and demerits of the proposed bill. 

It is then put to a vote where, if a majority votes in favour, it advances to the relevant committee to further debate, discuss and, occasionally, deliberate with citizens and groups that might be invested. Should the committee vote for it to be advanced, it is then sent back to the whole house for a final reading. If passed, it is sent to the other chamber to pass and then sent to the president for assent. 

Although legislators and the president are active participants when passing a bill to become an act, aka law, citizens, civil society organisations, and other groups are also responsible for interacting with the process as required.

Did Nigeria change anything in the electoral act 2022?

President Buhari signed the Electoral Act 2022 into law in February 2022. Electoral acts usually reflect the preferences of the electoral body (read: INEC) in carrying out the election. The act results from different lobbying efforts from INEC to conduct the election fairly. 

The Electoral Act 2022 includes several new provisions. Section 47 gives INEC the legal backing to use a smart card reader for the election. Section 62 allows for the electronic transmission of results through the National Electronic Register of Election Results. Other prominent changes include an earlier commencement of campaigning, with Section 94 moving the period from three to five months. 

Perhaps most notably, the new electoral act disqualifies political appointees from voting delegates or being voted for at a party convention. This led to several ministers resigning to contest elected offices, including some members of the president’s cabinet.

How likely will the content of the electoral act change in the future?

Before the recent amendment, the last change to the Electoral Act was in 2010. Each act has brought new stages of election reform, such as INEC being empowered to de-register dormant political parties in the 2010 Electoral Act. The recent applications of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and the electronic transmission of voting results through the INEC Election Result Viewing Portal (IReV), from the 2022 Act, in the Ekiti and Osun elections, have given reasons for optimism. It is also expected that, with future recommendations by INEC, the Electoral Act will see changes to keep the country’s electoral growth.

Where else?