Introduction

#WatchingTheVote is a citizen led election observation initiative aimed at enhancing the integrity of elections in Nigeria using technological tools like SMS and evidence-based research methodology tools for election observation. The initiative is designed to promote credible elections and boost citizens confidence in the electoral process through the provision of citizens’ oversight on elections throughout the electoral cycle. #WatchingTheVote relies heavily on the use of SMS to provide real time election updates that validate the credibility of election results as well as elicit real time response from election stakeholders before, during and after elections. This election observation methodology empowers citizens to watch over electoral activities in a bid to deepen electoral democracy, transparency and accountability. #WatchingTheVote is designed as a movement of citizens observers with the capacity to gather data, detect fraud and escalate critical incidents that could potentially undermine the conduct of elections. Beyond contributing to the integrity of the electoral process, the #WatchingTheVote provides citizens with an opportunity to take ownership of their future by serving as watchdogs on the electoral process.

#WatchingTheVote is guided by the Declaration of Global Principles for Nonpartisan Election Observation (DoGP) and Code of Conduct for Nonpartisan Citizens Election Observers and Monitors.

Why #WatchingTheVote

#WatchingTheVote is undertaken in line with the inherent responsibility vested on citizens and civil society organizations to serve as watchdogs over electoral activities. Since election is a process and not a one off event, its credibility cannot be sufficiently measured by the activities conducted on Election Day. Several pre-election activities precede Election Day voting e.g. voter registration, political campaigns, party primaries, training and deployment of election officers and materials, accreditation of party agents and observers. These activities if compromised could undermine the credibility of an election. Therefore, stakeholders in the electoral process ought to monitor these activities to ensure conformity with legal and democratic standards as well as facilitate effective election planning and catalyze electoral reforms.

Access to election information and data is a major challenge in the value chain of election management. This undermines the principles of openness and transparency that underpins election administration. #WatchingTheVote will facilitate access to election information by providing regular election data in a user-friendly and timely manner.

Scope and Methodology

#WatchingTheVote citizen observers are deployed to polling stations and results collation centers on election day to observe the election proceedings. The Election Day observation is preceded by the deployment of trained election analysts and observers for the pre-election assessment. The observers send periodic SMS to a designated phone number in line with a specialized observation checklist.

#WatchingTheVote is deployed in the pre-election phase to assess the political and security environment ahead of elections. This includes assessing the preparation of relevant stakeholders for elections, voter registration, party primaries, campaign finance, election security and voter participation. The findings and analysis of the pre-election observation enhances the quality of electoral outcomes and stakeholder engagement. It also facilitates effective election planning, electoral reforms and non-violent elections. On the eve of the elections, the pre-election observation focuses on distribution of election materials, activation of Registration Area Centers (RAC), voter education and participation, security threats and deployment and campaigns.

On Election day, #WatchingTheVote observers track and share data using mobile phones and sms on deployment of election materials, opening and closing of polls, adequacy and competence of polling officials, accreditation and voting, results collation process, conduct of election stakeholders, electoral violence and electoral offences. The data/field reports are sent to a Central Analysis Centre (CAC) for processing, verification, analysis, visualization and dissemination.

In the post election period, #WatchingTheVote generates data on the performance of the election management body, stakeholder satisfaction, arrests and prosecution of electoral offenders. It also undertakes election data analysis and tracks electoral dispute resolution in the tribunals and courts.