2016 EDO AND ONDO STATE POLLING UNIT ACCESSIBILITY AUDIT REPORT
Nigeria has made a lot of gains in the development of its political and electoral processes since its return to democratic rule in 1999. Key achievements in this area include increasing public confidence in the electoral process, the country’s first ever transfer of power from one political party to another and 18 years of unbroken democracy.
However, the inability of marginalized and underrepresented groups like persons with disabilities (PWDs), women and youth to participate in political and electoral processes on an equal basis, due to attitudinal and environmental barriers remains a major concern.
Barriers to voting
According to the 2006 national census, Nigeria has 3,253,169 PWDs. This figure is more than the combined population of certain nations of the world. PWDs face enormous barriers that make it difficult or impossible for us to participate in elections. Polling units and voting cubicles are not always physically accessible to those that are unable to walk or have impaired walking. Election materials such as ballots are not produced in Braille or Tactile for visually impaired voters.
Similarly, polling units do not have officials that are able to communicate in sign language to voters with hearing impairments. Written instructions on Elections Day procedures are also not always available for this category of voters. These and other challenges continue to disenfranchise PWDs.
Nigeria’s first poll accessibility audit
Reliable data on PWDs and the challenges we face in the electoral process has been almost non-existent, making it difficult to address the barriers we encounter. To collect data and conduct evidence-based advocacy to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and other stakeholders, Inclusive Friends Association (IFA) and its partners conducted Nigeria’s first and second ever polling unit accessibility audits during the 2016 governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states.
Using a sample-based methodology, similar to what is deployed for Parallel Vote Tabulations (PVTs), IFA collected data on the accessibility of polling units and election materials for PWDs from a representative random sample of all of the polling units in both states. The findings from the Edo and Ondo polling unit audits revealed widespread barriers to PWD participation in elections.
Observers’ reports showed that 65 percent of the polling units observed in Edo and 77 percent of those in Ondo were located in places that were inaccessible for PWDs. These reports also showed that it was difficult for PWDs to enter 64 percent of the polling units observed in Edo and 79 percent of those in Ondo. Observer reports also showed that ballot boxes were not placed in such a way that PWDs could independently cast their ballots in 48 percent of the polling units observed in Edo and 77 percent of those in Ondo.
IFA has made specific recommendations in this report to assist election stakeholders address the barriers observed. One of these recommendations is for INEC to locate polling units on flat surfaces as opposed to corridors, to enable PWDs enter these polling units without difficulty on Election Day.