What To Expect On Election Day As A First Time Voter

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As the 2023 Presidential Election draws nearer, it is important to be prepared for what the day may hold. For many of us, it will be our first time participating in this civic duty and we have no clue on what to expect. Here is a rundown of the procedure for election day and a few tips on how to prepare. 

When to get to your polling unit?

You can only vote at the polling unit written on your voter’s card. The polling units open at 8:30 am and close at 2:30 pm, voters on the queue on or before 2:30 pm will be allowed to cast their vote. As is typical with Nigerians and situations that involve queuing, do not be shocked to find people queuing from as early as 7am on the day. Ensure that this does not discourage you because no matter how long it might take, it is in your best interest to wait it out and exercise your voting power. 

Procedure for voting 

Stage one – Accreditation 

The first stage of voting is the accreditation stage. INEC officials use the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System to confirm your identity with fingerprint or facial recognition. This ensures that only persons with their PVCs and whose names appear on the voters’ register of a polling unit are allowed to vote. After the BVAS confirms your identity, indelible ink will be applied to your finger and a stamped, signed and dated ballot paper will be issued to you.

Stage two – Voting 

Voting is done privately in a cubicle. When casting your vote, ensure the ink does not smear on other parts of the ballot paper to avoid your vote being rejected. After that, the ballot paper should be folded vertically and dropped into the ballot box. Photographs are not permitted in the polling booths.

Once you are done voting, you can either stay behind to witness the collation and announcement of results or return home to observe it via local television stations. In order to enhance transparency, INEC has provided an online results viewing portal called IReV (www.inecelectionsresults.ng) where you can view the results of all polling units in real-time before they are declared at the end of the election by INEC.

Tips For Election Day 

1. Don’t forget your PVC. 

Your PVC is the only means of identification you need on election day. It should even be arranged alongside your election-day clothes the night before. Without your PVC, you won’t be allowed to vote. 

2. Wear sunscreen and take a bottle of water. 

Depending on your polling unit and the number of voters there, you are likely going to queue for a minimum of 2 hours. Wear sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun and bring along a bottle of water to stay hydrated. 

3. Go to the polling unit with family or friends and stick together 

If you have the same polling unit as your friends or family, ensure you go together and stick together. This can turn the strenuous voting process into a bonding experience and keep you from being too agitated. You can all be a source of support to each other, reminding yourselves what is at stake with this election.

4. Be peaceful and orderly 

It might be tempting to jump queues or cut through corners to fast track your voting process, but please don’t. Everyone on the queue believes in their version of a better Nigeria and are there to exercise their right to see it through. On election day, no one’s time is more important than the other, so be patient. 

There are officials trained to carry out this process as smoothly as possible, and you do not know their jobs more than they do. Endeavour to follow instructions and cooperate so things go without disruption. 

5. Don’t Panic

Election days are always followed by whispers of violence and insecurity. Whatever happens that day, stay calm and don’t inspire panic in other people. Look for the quickest and safest way to remove yourself from the situation. Do not attempt to de-escalate the situation if you don’t reasonably believe you can.

Agree with your friends and family on a safe spot to reconvene in the possibility that you lose track of each other or get separated. This way, your priority would be getting to the safe spot rather than derailing each other while searching. 

The conclusion of the Presidential Election is not the end of electoral processes this year. On the 11th of March 2023, the Governorship and State Houses of Assembly Election will be conducted in some states. Research on the candidates running in order to make an informed decision on who will best represent you. Effective governance in Nigeria is not determined by the seat of the President alone. Governorship and State House of Assembly election are equally as important.