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Thumb or index finger? Any fingerprint can be used to vote in Nigeria’s elections

Nigeria’s presidential elections are set for 16 February 2019. But on 12 February a hoax popped up on social media: “Vote with your index finger and not your thumb.”

The message reads: “The Independent National Electoral Commission has changed the pattern of voting without majority aware. You DON’T VOTE with YOUR THUMB ANYMORE.”

It continues: “You vote with your INDEX FINGER (warning finger). Any vote cast with the THUMB is VOID (cancelled) vote.”  

Any fingerprint can be used to vote

Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) warns in a statement that the message is false.

“INEC’s attention has been drawn to fake news making rounds that the index finger is the only finger approved for marking a ballot paper. This is FALSE.”

Any fingerprint can be used to vote, so Nigeria’s voters shouldn’t worry about the hoax.

“At the point of registration, all 10 fingers were captured,” INEC says. “So any finger can be used for marking a ballot paper. Make sure that your that your mark is inside the box of your party of choice and does not stray into another box.”

Avoiding rejected votes

Rejected votes could once again become an issue in this year’s presidential elections if care isn’t taken. In the 2015 presidential elections, there were 844,519 rejected votes according to INEC.

INEC considers a vote to be invalid if a fingerprint is between two parties’ symbols, is not in a box near any party or the ballot paper is not printed at all.

Nigeria’s ‘open secret ballot’

Elections in Nigeria use an open secret ballot. In this system, the voter adds their fingerprint or otherwise makes their choice in secret, but then openly drops their ballot paper into the box of the political party they have chosen.

Rotimi Oyekanmi, a press secretary at INEC, told Africa Check that voters can use any finger to vote.

“INEC released on a tweet on its page stating that voters can use any finger to vote, but the voter should ensure that his or her mark is clear and placed inside the box of the political party of his or her choice and does not stray into another box.

“We consider the message about using an index finger to vote as fake news. It is out to mislead people.” - Motunrayo Joel (13/02/19)

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