Improving the Integrity of Nigeria’s Register of Voters

Registration of voters and compilation of the National Register of Voters is a core electoral activity in Nigeria. The 1999 Constitution makes it a core function of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in addition to conducting elections and referendums, managing political parties, constituency delimitation, and voter and civic education. The importance of a reliable register of voters to elections and democracy is not farfetched. First, it is the determinant of voting rights in Nigeria. Only Nigerian citizens whose names appear on the Register of Voters can vote in an election or referendum. Second, the register is a means of identifying the voter. A major factor undermining democratic elections in many countries is voter impersonation. Considering that elections are designed as a mechanism for determining citizens’ choices, impersonation distorts this critical aspect of elections. Third and related to the risk of voter impersonation is the question of the integrity of an election. A poor register of voters is conducive to election rigging through impersonation, manipulation of a number of votes and voter suppression.