Definition of Electoral Voting System
An electoral system may be defined as a process or method through which the people of a given country elect their representative into different political offices or positions in government. It also includes the conditions and processes for the nomination of candidates for elective posts including procedure and rules of election.
In Nigeria, an electoral commission with the different designation is appointed to organize and conduct all elections in the country. For example, Federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO) conducted 1979-83 Second Republic elections. National Electoral Commission (NEC) conducted the 1993 aborted Third Republic elections. Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) conducted the 1999 Fourth Republic elections.
The Electoral Voting Process in Nigeria
The electoral process is the process through which candidates are elected to fill political posts. The process starts with the efforts of political parties in preparing for elections, campaigning for votes, etc.
Preparing for elections
Political parties usually make a lot of preparations before the actual voting takes place. For example, each party has to select its own candidate for each constituency. Thus if there are six political parties, there may be as many as six candidates in each constituency. A candidate is a person to be voted for in an election. If the election is to the houses of parliament, the successful candidate will be parliamentarians.
Registration of political parties:
The registration of political parties is done according to laid down political rules and regulations through the electoral commission.
Registration of voters
Usually, prior to any general election, all persons eligible to vote are called upon to register themselves. It is only those who register that can vote. It is the duty of the Electoral Commission to carry out the registration exercise.
Campaign for votes
Apart from the presentation of a candidate in each constituency, each party has to campaign directly for votes. This involves presenting the party’s manifesto or programme to the electorate. A party programme contains what the party intends to do if elected into power. The electorate (the body of voters) will be the final judge as to which party has the best programme and intentions. The official campaigning period varies from country to country.
This is a system whereby voting is done secretly. Most democratic countries now operate the secret ballot. A ballot is a paper through which the elector votes. Under the secret ballot, the voter or elector goes alone into the ballot booth and drops his ballot paper into the box of the candidate or party of his choice. The secret ballot protects the voter from possible persecution and intimidation. This is so because no one knows the candidate or party which he has voted for unless he himself tells others.
Actual Voting and Results
The actual voting exercise is done within a well-stated day and period. For example, the voting hours might be from 7.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. of a fixed date. Each eligible voter has to cast his vote within the stated hours. After the voting exercise, the ballot boxes are carried to the counting centre and counted. The results of the election are immediately announced by the Returning Officer after the counting.
Characteristics of an Electoral Voting System
An independent and impartial electoral body should be put in place.
There should be regular or periodic elections as stipulated in the Constitution. This will help to eliminate any president who intends to perpetuate himself in power.
It is important for the delimitation of the country into constituencies.
Universal adult suffrage:
Qualified adult citizens should exercise their right of voting
Voting should be conducted:
Without fear of molestation, intimidation, and victimization.
Counting of votes:
This should be made public and with the immediate release of results.
Nomination of candidates by political parties:
This should be done in a way that it will appeal to the generality of the people.
Secret ballot: this method of election should be adopted.
Political education: The people should be properly educated about their political rights, elections and about the political system.
Materials for election: Materials for election, e.g. ballot boxes, ballot papers, ink pad, polling booths etc, are provided.
Types of Electoral Voting System
Single – member constituency and single vote:
This system is usually referred to as “first past the post” or simple majority system. A candidate has the highest number of votes cast to win the election, Britain, U.S.A, Canada etc are examples of this system.
Single member and second ballot:
Failure of any candidate to receive any absolute majority at the first ballot, a second one is held with the weaker candidates either choosing or being required to retire, e.g. France.
Single member with the preferential vote:
This system allows the electorate to place the candidate in order of preference. The votes of the weaker candidates being distributed to the stronger ones, according to second, third, etc.
The essence of proportional representation is allocating seats in proportion to the votes cast in multi-member constituencies. It is a method used to elect representatives to the legislature. The total number of votes which a party or groups scores are calculated in proportion to the total number of the vote cast. There are two types of proportional representation.
Meaning: Plurality system is also referred to as ‘first past the post’ or simple majority system. In this system, the candidate who scores the highest number of votes is deemed elected. It is based on single-member constituency. A candidate has to obtain a simple majority (plurality) of votes to be elected. He needs not to have to win an absolute majority of all the votes cast in the election. For example, there are four candidates with the following scores from 50,000 voters.
Candidate A — 14,000
B — 13,000
C — 12,000
D — 11,000
Candidate A is declared elected because he has the plurality of votes.
The Nigerian electoral voting system is been carried through secret ballot where the voter or elector goes alone into the ballot booth and drops his ballot paper into the box of the candidate or party of his choice. This system protects voters from possible persecution and intimidation.
- Dibie C. Chris (1999): “Essential Government for Senior Secondary Schools. Ibafo Ogun, Tonad Publishers Limited.
- O. Eyiyere (1983) “Government Made Easy”. Benin City, Quality Publishers Limited.