The National Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), yesterday, disclosed that it has created additional 440 polling units in Bayelsa State, taking the total number in the state to 2,244 polling units.
While the additional units create access for more voters, the commission said it was expanding voter access to polling units by converting existing voting points and settlements into polling units.
Speaking at a stakeholders meeting on Expansion of Voters Access to Polling Units Exercise in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) Dr. Cyril Omorogbe, said INEC had seized the opportunity to relocate existing polling units to places where they were more accessible to the voters and decongest the existing ones.
Omorogbe said access to polling units was essential in increasing the number of voters during elections, adding that Nigerians had not recorded over 35 per cent of voters during elections whereas Ghana has recorded over 50 per cent of voter participation during elections.
Speaking further, he said, the commission’s goal was to improve health and safety conditions at polling units during elections, comply with COVID-19 protocols and address declining voter turnout at elections due to lack of access to polling units.
He said before the enumeration of the registration areas, there were 1,804 polling units in the eight councils of the state, but has now increased the number to 2, 244 polling units after the conversion.
“INEC will continue to address the issue of polling units after the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR), as the commission is targeting 120 million voters for the 2023 general elections,” Omorogbe stated.
Some of the stakeholders commended INEC for the exercise and urged the commission to create more polling units for people in the creek and fishing settlement to have access to polling units.
Speaking, representative of Sagbama/Ekeremor Constituency in the House of Representatives, Fred Agbedi, said he had always insisted that Bayelsa could not be treated like other states whenever an exercise like this comes up.
“We should consider the peculiarities of our terrain and ensure that our people exercise their franchise during elections and voters have access to polling units where they can vote to strengthen our state and the nation’s democracy,” he added.