Open Journal of Political Science
2013. Vol.3, No.4, 167-174
Published Online October 2013 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2013 SciRe s . 167
Electoral Fraud in Nigeria: A Philosophical Evaluation of the
Framework of Electoral Violence
Ani Casimir, Emma Omeh, Chinedu Ike
Department of Philo sophy/Institute of African Studies/Political Science, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nigeria
Received June 6th, 2013; revised August 4th, 2013; accepted August 21st, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Ani Casimir et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons At-
tribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the
original work is properly cited.
In the 2011 general elections in Nigeria, the Independent National Election Commission (INEC), the
electoral management body (EMB) that organized the elections pulled what may pass as an electoral feat
in achieving one of the most open, credible, peaceful and transparent elections within Nigeria’s recent
memory. Before the 2011 elections, Nigeria had the 1999, 2003 and the 2007 elections considered by both
national and international election observers, the Common Wealth Election Monitoring groups and the
civil society, to be the most disorganized and fraudulent election during which people’s votes were bla-
tantly stolen, rigged and the mandate of the people hijacked by political elites belonging variously to dif-
ferent political parties. Nigeria’s democracy, no doubt, is still nascent, evolving and could be classified as
a new democracy. This paper takes a critical look at a disturbing national and international question: why
is there so much electoral fraud in new and emerging democracies like Nigeria. The article seeks to estab-
lish the reasons and causes of electoral manipulation, its dynamics and corrupt tendencies, especially
those electoral outcomes that are disputed as a result of electoral misconduct known as “electoral fraud”.
The article will evaluate the concept of electoral fraud, explore the challenges of electoral fraud, its con-
sequent crisis for new democracies and suggests ways of curtailing the phenomenon in its varied mani-
Keywords: Philosophy of Good Governance; Electoral Fraud; Political Elites; Election Management Body
and Nigeria; Democratic Governance for Development Project; Pillars of Democracy
An electoral fraud is seen as an illegal interference with the
process of election that interferes with the mandate of the peo-
ple. Other features of this political elite fraud include:
1) Using vote counts to change an election result;
2) Increasing the number of votes for the favored candidate;
3) Reducing the vote share of the opposing candidates or
In Nigeria’s chequered political and democratic history, spe-
cial dimensions were assumed by the country’s electoral fraud
experience to include:
4) Under age voting;
5) Mass voting by unregistered citizens (neither qualified to
register nor even registered to vote);
6) Snatching of ballot boxes to be stuffed with thumb-
printed votes for party candidates;
7) Switching of results before or after collation to favor rul-
ing party candidates;
8) Intimidation at the polls using private militant gangs or
even state security;
9) Scaring away of genuine registered voters from exercis-
ing their votes in polling booths located in an opposition fa-
vored constituency;
10) Deliberate, one-sided and improper counting of votes;
11) Media manipulation to announce or publish the wrong
results and the wrong candidates as winners before the proper
collation of results by the Electoral Commission.
Since this study focuses on electoral fraud in Nigeria, as a
fundamental cause and framework under which electoral vio-
lence is unleashed that threatens the political order and peace in
Nigeria, it will be a vital and relevant good step to give a sum-
mary background of recent Nigeria’s relevant political and
democratic history.
Background History of Recent Democractic
Experience in Nigeria
Nigeria is a country with diverse and multifarious culture
with overlapping regional, religious, and ethnic boundaries.
Nigerian’s present population is estimated to be around 150
million. With the emergence of democratic politics in 1999
after over thirty (30) years of military rule, elections took place
in Nigeria with candidates contesting on different political plat-
forms for the presidency, the national Assembly, State Houses
of Assembly, and governorship in the 36 states. The hope
raised by the enthusiasm with which the country embraced
democratic process in 1999 was a false indicator an emerging
stable democracy in Nigeria. The hope was misplaced as recent
indicators will prove According to the report written on 2011
elections by the International Foundations for Election Systems
(IFES) (Aniekwe & Kushie, 2011) the hope raised by democ-
ractic politics was dashed and the expectations continued to fall
with bleak prospects:
Since the 1999 to the 2007 elections, the Nigeria electoral
and political landscape has fallen from par to below par and has
moved from violence to greater violence. The level and magni-
tude of electoral and political violence has risen and the politi-
cal elites have often converted poverty ridden unemployed
Nigerian youths into readymade machinery for the perpetration
of electoral violence. This is linked to the political system and
institution that in theory has failed to political participation and
in practice has seen the political elites forming bulk of the
sponsors and perpetrators of electoral violence. An examination
of the political antecedents reveals evidence of political and
electoral violence in Nigeria before 1999. There were repeated
scales of violence and political and/or religious rift between the
Christian and Muslim on the one side and North and South on
the other side. The pattern of violence in the former is such that
cut across political, sectarian and electoral, while in the latter,
the activities of the militant (so called freedom fighters) tran-
scends just the struggle for the control of the resources to in-
clude both covert and overt participation in perpetrating elec-
toral violence1.
The configuration of the Nigeria political system falls along
six geopolitical zones namely: the North viz: the North-West
comprising Kaduna, Katsina, Jigawa, Sokoto, Kebbi, Kano, and
Zamfara; the North-East comprising Bauchi, Gombe, Borno,
Taraba, Adamawa and Yobe; the North Central comprising
Plateau, Nassarawa, Niger, Kwara, Kogi and Benue. In the
South, the geopolitical configurations are the South-West com-
prising Lagos, Osun, Ogun, Oyo, Ekiti and Ondo; the South-
East comprising Enugu, Anambra, Imo, Abia and Ebonyi and
the South-South comprising Rivers, Cross River, Akwa Ibom,
Delta Edo and Bayelsa. None of these zones is spared from
possibility of electoral violence nonetheless; the trigger, ma-
chinery and strategy employed might differ and the remote
cause may as well vary across zones and states.
Electoral Fraud and Violence—A Dialectical Link
Electoral violence in Nigeria is caused by electoral fraud and
manipulation of figures and data to deny the rightful winners
their popular mandates given to them and certified by the elec-
toral process. It is an attempt to willfully compromise the integ-
rity of the electoral process or system to achieve unmerited
individual win for a political party candidate through the falsi-
fication of the electoral figures, numbers, data or process.
Electoral fraud is the organized strategy or programs of indi-
viduals and or political parties to get desired results of an elec-
toral process either by hook (or) crook. It is the number one
cause of electoral violence before, during or after elections.
Electoral Violence
Researches on electoral violence is scare and often times fo-
cuses broadly with a mixture of political and electoral vio-
lence. However some scholars have made attempt to conceptu-
alise electoral violence (Aniekwe & Kushie, 2011). As quoted
by Aniekwe and Kushie, Fischer defined electoral violence
(conflict) as “any random or organized act that seeks to deter-
mine, delay, or otherwise influence an electoral process through
threat, verbal intimidation, hate speech, disinformation, physi-
cal assault, forced ‘protection’, blackmail, destruction of prop-
erty, or assassination”2. On his part Otigbe Igbuzor (2010)
views it as:
any act of violence perpetuated in the course of political ac-
tivities, including pre, during and post election periods, and
may include any of the following acts: thuggery, use of force to
disrupt political meetings or voting at polling stations, or the
use of dangerous weapons to intimidate voters and other elec-
toral process or to cause bodily harm or injury to any person
connected with electoral processes3.
The work of Fischer, according to Anikwe & Kushie (2011)
“culminated into a comprehensive research by the International
Foundation for Election Systems (IFES) on electoral violence,
which later set the state for the Electoral Violence Education
and Resolution (EVER) project that has been implemented in
countries across continents including Ghana, Kyrgyzstan,
Guyana, Iraq, East-Timo and Nigeria. The EVER project is
currently being implemented in Nigeria and it presents a com-
prehensive and robust understanding of the context and concept
of electoral violence”. Within the EVER framework therefore
election-related violence refers to
any violence (harm) or threat of violence (harm) that is
aimed at any person or property involved in the election proc-
ess, or at disrupting any part of the electoral or political proc-
ess during the election period4.
The three definitions, closely related, capture the stages of
electoral violence as well as the actors constitute electoral vio-
lence. It is this morphology and deeper nature of electoral vio-
lence with its causes that Anikwe and Kushie again analysed
with interconnections to electoral fraud:
The crucial thing is that the definitions reveal the deeper na-
ture of electoral violence in a way that readers would under-
stand that electoral violence is much more than Election Day
violence or overt manifestation of violence during election
period. It transcends that to capture the election stages and can
be a harm or threat to harm to the electoral process. Election
violence generally involves political parties, their supporters,
journalists, agents of the government, election administrators
and the general population, and includes threats, assault, mur-
der, destruction of property, and physical or psychological
This dialectical observation is closely related to the concep-
tualization of political and electoral related violence in a cross
country study of post World War II political violence, in which
Hibbs (1973) took a broader approach to capture the entire
periods of election process. By these definitions, it becomes
clear why our understanding of electoral violence must involve
specific victim(s), perpetrator(s) and occurs within a time frame
and location. These perpetrators come with their fraudulent
motives and the victims of electoral violence are people, places,
things or data which are often manipulated, distorted or de-
stroyed. This presupposes that electoral violence cuts across
different stages of election starting from the registration period
to post election period. Fischer (2002) highlighted four descrip-
tive categories of conflict and violence that emerge, suggesting
a variety of motives, perpetrators, and victims which includes
the following:
2Fisher, Electoral Violence culled from Aniekwe & Kushie (2011).
3Otigbe Igbuzor culled from Kushie (2011:18).
4Electoral Violence (EVER Project; International Foundation for Elections
System Paper, 2011).
5Fisher (200 2 ) International Foundation for Elections system Report.
1Chika Charl es Aniekwe & J oshua Kushie (201 1): Electoral Violence S itu-
ational Analysis: Identifying Hot-Spots in the 2011 General Elections in
igeria, Joint Association For Peaceful Elections in Nigeria and IFES p. 1.
Copyright © 2013 SciRe s .
1) Disgruntled voters against the state arising from perceived
unfairness in the election process;
2) The state in conflict with voters who challenges election
result or hegemony of the state;
3) Political rivals in conflict with each other in the quest to
attain power and;
4) A combination of two or more of the above categories”6.
From the above we can see that it is a given that electoral
fraud is at the heart of electoral violence because people, as
electorates and stakeholders in a countrry’s democracy, are not
happy when their electoral and democratic rights had been sto-
len either before, during or after elections had taken place. Vio-
lence is one of the reactions to electoral victory denial, real or
perceived. Electoral fraud when properly documented by elec-
tion monitors confirms the fact that a particular election or
electoral process has not been transparent, fair or credible to
make the peoples’ votes to count or to genuinely reflect their
democratic mandate.
No matter the cultural shape of electoral fraud or whatever
the violent reactionary dimension it has assumed in Nigeria (Or
anywhere else), what has become fixed in the conceptual
framework of electoral best practices is that electoral miscon-
duct and corruption differs from country to country, under dif-
ferent laws, that define what it is, its national and local tenor.
Many electoral laws define what constitutes violation of good
conduct before, during, and after elections. But as in Nigeria
(until 2011) the good electoral laws made by its National As-
sembly turn a blind eye to massive rigging and violence with
impunity because of weak institutions that are easily manipu-
lated by politicians. Although technically the term “electoral
fraud” covers only those acts which are illegal, the term is
sometimes used to describe acts which although legal, are con-
sidered to be morally unacceptable, outside the spirit of elec-
toral laws or in violation of the principles of democracy7.
In the context of political theory it is accurate to state that
electoral fraud violates both the spirit and laws of democracies.
According to John Locke, considered rightly as the theoretical
architect of democracy as it exists in the world today8 clearly
states that in a free society (democracy) “no one ought to harm
or cheat another of his life, health, liberty and possession”9.
Any government based on this principles of misconduct will be
unstable, chaotic and tyrannical since it “operates by caprice,
and the society it controls will be correspondingly unstable”10.
According to Locke:
In a properly conducted government, a democracy such a
state of affairs will be ruled out. Democracy is government by
laws that are arrived at after long deliberation by properly cho-
sen representatives of the people11.
Electoral fraud, cheating, violence rigging or manipulation of
votes either by INEC or ruling parties either at the national,
state or local government levels in Nigeria is sharply at vari-
ance with the democratic rights and freedoms of Nigeria people,
it is therefore a fundamental violation of the constitution and
liberty of Nigerians whose electoral mandates were stolen.
Considerations and Evaluation of Different Electoral
Frauds in a D e moc racy
As can be seen from the picture of electoral fraud experience
in Nigeria, it is differs from country to country and has different
national laws establishing, defining and sanctioning what con-
stitutes electoral fraud, its violations and sanctions. In Nigeria’s
flawed electoral process and history electoral fraud has had the
negative impacts on her people at the same level coups and
corruptions have weakened the country’s development. This is
because the electoral frauds not only were not only unpunished
but beneficiaries of electoral frauds were supported by govern-
ment institutions to form new governments and let in parlia-
ments at the national, state and local levels after the elections.
When people’s mandates are short changed and the electoral
fraud with its perpetrators not punished, it can reduce voters
confidence in a democracy, government and reduce their sup-
port for institutions that strengthen democratic participations.
Morphology of Electoral Fraud—A Universal
The nature and symptoms of electoral fraud that is seen in
Nigeria draws from a universal perspective and definition that
attempts to establsih some working principle of what has been
variously described as political and democratic corruption. This
is because electoral fraud is an illegal interfrence in the trans-
parent process of an election. Accordingly, a working gleaned
from the Global Research website, Wikipaedia, defines elec-
toral fraud as an incident that not only destabilizes a democracy
but it could also put an election process into a credibility crisis
making it difficult for people and voters not to accept an elec-
tion process or its results:
Electoral fraud is an illegal interference with the process of
an election. Acts of fraud affect vote counts to bring about an
election result, whether by increasing the vote share of the
favored candidate, depressing the vote share of the rival can-
didates or both. Also called voter fraud, the mechanisms in-
volved include illegal voter registration, intimidation at polls
and improper vote counting. What electoral fraud is under law
varies from country to country. Many kinds of voter fraud are
outlawed in electoral legislation but others are in violation of
general laws such as those banning assault, harassment or libel.
Although technically the term electoral fraud covers only
those acts which are illegal, the term is sometimes used to de-
scribe acts which although legal, are considered to be morally
unacceptable, outside the spirit of electoral laws or in violation
of the principles of democracy12.
6Fisher (2002:3).
8Popken and Sholl (1993/70) The political philosophy of John Locke,New
York): In the context of political theory it is accurate to say that electoral
fraud violates both the spirit and laws of democracies. According to John
Locke, considered rightly as the theoretical architect of democracy as it
exists in th e wor ld to day cl earl y stat es t hat in a fr ee so ciet y (d emocrac y) “n o
one ought to harm or cheat a nother of his life, health, libert y and possession”.
9Popken an d Sholl (19 93 /71) The politica l ph ilo sophy of John Locke .
10Popken and Sholl (1993/72) The political philosophy of John Lock: Any
government based on this principles of misconduct will be unstable,chaotic
and tyrannical since it “operates by caprice, and the society it controls will
be correspondi ngly unstable”.
11Popken and Sholl (1993/PP 74-76) The political philosophy of John Locke
According to Locke: “In a properly conducted government, a democracy
such a state of affairs will be ruled out. Democracy is government by laws
that are ar rived at af ter long d eli
eration by properly chosen representatives
of the people”.
In national elections, successful electoral fraud can have the
effect of a coup d’état or corruption of democracy. In a narrow
election a small amount of fraud may be enough to change the
result. If the result is not affected, fraud can still have a damag-
ing effect if not punished, as it can reduce voters’ confidence in
12The Spirit of Electoral Laws or Violation of the Principles of Democracy
Copyright © 2013 SciRe s . 169
democracy. Even the perception of fraud can be damaging as it
makes people less inclined to accept election results. This can
lead to the breakdown of democracy and the establishment of a
dictatorship. Electoral fraud is not limited to political polls and
can happen in any election where the potential gain is worth the
risk for the cheater; as in elections for labor union officials,
student councils, sports judging, and the awarding of merit to
books, films, music or television programmes. Despite many
instances of electoral fraud, it remains a difficult phenomenon
to study. This follows from its inherent illegality. Harsh penal-
ties aimed at deterring electoral fraud make it likely that indi-
viduals who perpetrate fraud do so with the expectation that it
either will not be discovered or will be excused13.
The Democratic Governance for Development
Project in Nigeria
Electoral fraud in Nigeria has served the ignoble purposes of
weakening the people’s confidence and support for democratic
institution in Nigeria. Institutions of democracy strengthen and
stabilize democratic development since they encourage and
legalize wider popular participation in the democratic and de-
velopment process. As a result of the several decades of organ-
ized electoral fraud perpetrated at the national, state and local
levels of governance people have lost faith in governance, in-
stitutions and experienced mass alienation and exclusion from
the process of governance. This has weakened the development
programs, projects and prospects of Africa’s most populated
country. The huge electoral fraud committed during the 2007
elections made the European Union, the Commonwealth and
the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) to carry out
a detailed study of the pervasive problem of why Nigerians
have lost interest, confidence and faith in democratic institu-
tions14. (The DGD sponsored survey) and came to the conclu-
sion that the pillars of democracy in Nigeria are weak and, as a
result, electoral manipulation and fraud are used to truncate the
popular mandate and wishes of the people.
To strengthen democracy in Nigeria democratic pillars such
as the media, gender, the legislature, youths, the civil society
and INEC needed to be enlightened and empowered with true
democratic values to be able to place them at a pedestal they
can be mobilized during elections to guard and protect the vot-
ers of people during and after elections. The democractic pillars
will not only restore confidence in democratic institutions but
will enable the votes of the Nigerian people to count. Super-
vised and managed under the United Nations Development
Program (UNDP), the DGD project in Nigeria is jointly spon-
sored by the European Union, Canadian Agency for Interna-
tional Development, (Cida), the Department for International
Development of the British Government (DFID), the Korean
Agency for International Development (KOIDA) and the
UNDP. The Nigerian Democractic Governance for Develop-
ment Project (DGD) was targeted principally at checkmating
the incidence of electoral fraud which has sabotaged Nigeria’s
democratic aspiration and progress. With the high level of
transparency, peace and fair polls witnessed in 2011 elections,
the international and local observers and development partners
may have been correct in giving credit to INEC Nigeria’s new
electoral management body under Professor Attahiru Jega
checkmating historical incidences of electoral fraud. More im-
portantly to be factored into this democratic credit mix is the
positive impact and influence played by the DGD in Nigeria in
restoring the electoral confidence of Nigerians in democratic
Tendencies and Tenacity of Past Electoral Frauds in
Inspite of many instances of electoral fraud as witnessed sev-
erally in Nigeria, it is a phenomenon difficult to study and
checkmate. Perpetrators of electoral fraud in the country, de-
spite new electoral laws meant to checkmate them, still per-
petuate it and violate the electoral freedoms of Nigerians with
impunity. They do so either with the expectation that the fraud
will not be discovered by INEC, they may collude with willing
INEC officials, police or if discovered, that they will go unpun-
Before the success of INEC on the 2011 electoral feat, Nige-
ria was racked by a pervasive history of electoral fraud since
independence. As agreed to by several scholars such as Patrick
Iroegbu: 2003: 17, since 1960 when the country attained politi-
cal independence from Brittan electoral fraud at a time became
a disease ravaging Nigerian people and undermining their de-
velopment planning, leading to a psychological phenomenon
known as electoral fraud anger syndrome that disposes the
cheated masses to violence:
Beyond any reasonable shade of doubt, there is a political ill-
ness that sweeps across Nigeria at any given election time since
independence. This political illness is very contagious, disrup-
tive and result to wrong choice of credible leaders to make
development and healthy living occur. It has a name. We call it
“severe Nigerian Electoral Fraud Anger Syndrome” (SNEFAS).
The concept of this political illness is typically one character-
ized by devastating impact on people’s thinking and emotional
control each time it plays out. Has it mattered to know how
many people died in the last concluded (2003) elections? The
figure could be frightening. The electoral time bonus of a gov-
ernment sweeps people across to death once it is detonated. But
how come choosing leadership in Nigeria can be so devastat-
It has become obvious that violence, savagery, kidnapping,
vote stuffing ballot box snatching, bribery, and corruption of
security/electoral agents and outright rigging out of rival politi-
cal opponents were part of what constitutes electoral fraud in
Nigeria. Police brutality and total disregard for human life and
dignity connive to generate massive electoral malpractices in
Nigeria during which youths and college students are used as
political thugs, armed and sponsored by Nigeria’s political
elites and political parties who want to won at all costs. This
article would not focus upon the history of electoral frauds in
Nigeria nor upon what causes them. Some of the identified
cultural shapes of Nigeria’s electoral fraud had been identified
in the introductionwe would go further for the purposes of
clarity to expand the conceptual identification process of what
constitutes electoral fraud not only in Nigeria but in other de-
veloping democracies.
13Wikipaedia. Ibid.
14The huge electoral fraud committed during the 2007 elections made the
European Union, the Commonwealth and the United Nations Development
Program (UNDP) to carry out a detailed study of the pervasive problem o
why Nigerians have lost interest, confidence and faith in democratic institu-
tions. See: The DGD Project sponsored survey of participatory level o
igerians in the country’s democractic institutions and processes of election
and development (2010), UNDP Nigeria website.
Copyright © 2013 SciRe s .
Electoral Fraud Species in Developing Democracies
Electoral fraud can occur at any stage in the democratic proc-
ess, but most commonly occurs during election campaigns,
voter registration or during vote-counting. The two main types
of electoral fraud are preventing eligible voters from casting
their vote freely (or voting at all); and altering the results. A list
of threats to voting systems, or electoral fraud methods, espe-
cially its species that occur in developing democracies such as
Nigeria is as follows:
Manipulation of the Electorate
Political elites seeking votes indulge in an unfair manipula-
tion of the voting public through gerrymandering, demographic
manipulation, outright disenfranchisement of registered voters,
intimidation, vote buying (cash for votes), printing a confusing
ballot papers that could mislead voters, stuffing of ballot boxes
with illegally thumb printed votes, deliberate mis-recording of
votes (it either increase for a favored candidate or decrease for
an ill-favored opponent, abuse of proxy or electronic voting, or
destruction and invalidation of genuine votes cast (or vice versa
—validation of invalid votes).
Legislative Vote Fraud
It may be surprising to a lot of people that vote fraud in new
and transitory democracies can also take place in the legisla-
tures of such democracies.
Electoral Fraud and Voting Machines
Surprisingly, the technology used to refine and enhance par-
ticipating value of the electoral process in both new and old
democracies have become tools to expand the possibilities of
electoral fraud, its un-dertection and increased use of technol-
ogy is steal the people’s mandate.
Gerrymandering is the drawing of electorate boundaries in
order to produce a particular result. Typically, electorates will
be organized so that one group of people (for example poor
people or a particular ethnic or religious group) is concentrated
into a small number of electorates. This means that parties fa-
voured by that group will win by a large majority in those elec-
torates, but lose more narrowly in a larger number of elector-
ates. This may result in one party gaining the most votes overall
but still losing the election. Gerrymandering is most common
under plurality voting systems, in which the winner must win
the most electorates rather than the most votes overall15.
Manipulation of Demography
In many cases it is possible for authorities to artificially con-
trol the composition of an electorate in order to produce a fore-
gone result. One way of doing this is to move a large number of
voters into the electorate prior to an election, for example by
temporarily assigning them land or lodging them in shanty
households. Another strategy is to permanently move people
into an electorate, usually through public housing. If people
eligible for public housing are likely to vote for a particular
party, then they can either be concentrated into one electorate,
thus making their votes count for less, or moved into marginal
electorates, where they may tip the balance towards their pre-
ferred party. A loose immigration law may also be used by a
country to manipulate electoral demography that they secretly
support. In 1983 and 2003, it was heavily suspected by the
oposition parties that Nigeria’s borders were thrown open by
the ruling party at the centre to allow Nigeriens and Chadians to
register as voters to vote during the elections, thus entering the
country as illegal aliens who after the elections become threats
to the peace and stability of the country16.
Electorate Manipulation
Most electoral fraud takes place during or immediately after
election campaigns, by interfering with the voting process or
the counting of votes. However it can also occur far in advance,
by altering the composition of the electorate. In many cases this
is not illegal and thus technically not electoral fraud, although it
is sometimes considered to be a violation of principles of de-
In many cases gerrymandering occurs within, or is the result
of, electoral law. However it may sometimes take the form of
true electoral fraud, for example if laws governing the drawing
of electoral boundaries are broken, or officials are bribed or
otherwise coerced into altering boundaries in a way which fa-
vours a particular group.
The composition of an electorate may also be altered by dis-
enfranchising some types of people, rendering them unable to
vote. In some cases this may be done at a legislative level, for
example by passing a law banning convicted felons, recent
immigrants or members of a particular ethnic or religious group
from voting, or by instituting a literacy or other test which
members of some groups are more likely to fail. Since this is
done by lawmakers, it cannot be election fraud, but may subvert
the purposes of democracy. This is especially so if members of
the disenfranchised group were particularly likely to vote a
certain way. In some cases voters may be invalidly disenfran-
chised, which is true electoral fraud. For example a legitimate
voter may be “accidentally” removed from the electoral roll,
making it difficult or impossible for them to vote. Corrupt elec-
tion officials may misuse voting regulations such as a literacy
test or requirement for proof of identity or address in such a
way as to make it difficult or impossible for their targets to cast
a vote. If such practices discriminate against a religious or eth-
nic group, they may so distort the political process that the po-
litical order becomes grossly unrepresentative, as in the post-
Reconstruction or Jim Crow era until the Voting Rights Act of
1965. Groups may also be disenfranchised by rules which make
it impractical or impossible for them to cast a vote. For example,
requiring people to vote within their electorate may disenfran-
chise serving military personnel, prison inmates, students, hos-
pital patients or anyone else who cannot return to their homes.
Polling can be set for inconvenient days such as midweek or on
Holy Days (example: Sabbath or other holy days of a religious
group whose teachings determine that voting is a prohibited on
such a day) in order to make voting difficult for those studying
or working away from home. Communities may also be effec-
tively disenfranchised if polling places are not provided within
16Williamson, Chilton (1968). American Suffrage from Property to Democ-
racy. Prince t on, NJ: Princeton U. Press. ASIN B000FMPMK 6.
17Sadiq, Kamal (2005). When States Prefer Non-Citizens Over Citizens:
Conflict Over Illegal Immigration into Malaysia (PDF). International Stud-
ies Quarterly, 49, 101-122.
15Understanding Gerrymandering—Threats to Voting System s (NIST).
Copyright © 2013 SciRe s . 171
reasonable proximity (rural communities are especially vulner-
able to this) or situated in areas perceived by some voters as
Voter intimidation involves putting undue pressure on a
voter or group of voters so that they will vote a particular way,
or not at all. Absentee and other remote voting can be more
open to some forms of intimidation as the voter does not have
the protection and privacy of the polling location. Intimidation
can take a range of forms.
1) Violence or the threat of violence: In its simplest form,
voters from a particular demographic or known to support a
particular party or candidate are directly threatened by support-
ers of another party or candidate or those hired by them. In
other cases supporters of a particular party make it known that
if a particular village or neighbourhood is found to have voted
the “wrong” way, reprisals will be made against that commu-
nity. Another method is to make a general threat of violence,
for example a bomb threat which has the effect of closing a
particular polling place, thus making it difficult for people in
that area to vote19.
2) Attacks on polling places: Polling places in an area
known to support a particular party or candidate may be tar-
geted for vandalism, destruction or threats, thus making it dif-
ficult or impossible for people in that area to vote.
3) Legal threats: In this case voters will be made to believe,
accurately or otherwise, that they are not legally entitled to vote,
or that they are legally obliged to vote a particular way. Voters
who are not confident about their entitlement to vote may also
be intimidated by real or implied authority figures who suggest
that those who vote when they are not entitled to will be im-
prisoned, deported or otherwise punished. For example, in 1999
elections, anonymous flyers were circulated that if people fail
to vote for Retired General Obasanjo, the Nigerian military
establishment might refuse, or in fact, rethink handing over to
Chief Falae, the opposition presidential candidate; Obsanjo was
projected as the military candidate being a former military
Head of State of the country.
4) Economic threats: In company towns in which one com-
pany employs most of the working population, the company
may threaten workers with disciplinary action if they do not
vote the way their employer dictates.
Vote Buying
This is a common a common phenomenon in Nigeria’s past
electoral history. It is called “cash for votes” I call it the mone-
tization or commercialization of the voting process and the
conscience of the mostly poor voters. Voters may be given
money or other rewards for voting in a particular way, or not
voting. In some jurisdictions, the offer or giving of other re-
wards is referred to as “electoral treating”20.
People may distribute false or misleading information in or-
der to affect the outcome of the election. Most commonly,
smear campaigns (the circulation of false rumours) are made
against a particular candidate or party. Smear campaigns are not
necessarily illegal and can therefore not always be considered
election fraud. However in some countries smear campaigns
may violate libel or slander laws and in others, as the Philip-
pines, such campaigns are specifically illegal. Another way in
which misinformation can be used in voter fraud is to give vot-
ers incorrect information about the time or place of polling,
thus causing them to miss their chance to vote21.
Misleading or Confusing Ballot Pape r s
Ballot papers may be used to discourage votes for a particu-
lar party or candidate, using design or other features which
confuse voters into voting for a different candidate. For exam-
ple, in the 2000 US presidential election, Florida’s butterfly
ballot paper was criticised as confusing some voters into giving
their vote to the wrong candidate. Ironically, however, the bal-
lot was de signed by a De mocrat, the party most ha rmed by thi s
design22. Poor or misleading design is not usually illegal and
therefore not technically election fraud, but can subvert the
principles of democracy23.
Ballot Stuffing
Ballot stuffing occurs when a person casts more votes than
they are entitled to. In its simplest form, ballot stuffing literally
involves “stuffing” multiple ballot papers into the ballot box.
Another method is for voters to cast votes at multiple booths,
on each occasion claiming that it is their only vote. In some
countries such as Nigeria, India, El Salvador, Namibia or Af-
ghanistan voters get a finger marked with election ink to pre-
vent multiple votes. In Afghanistan’s elections of 2005, this
method failed as the ink used could easily be removed. A more
subtle technique is impersonation, in which a person pretends
to be someone else. The person whose vote is being used may
be legitimately enrolled but absent, a real but deceased person,
or entirely fictitious. A particularly unsubtle form of ballot
stuffing, known as booth capturing, sometimes occurs in India.
In these cases a gang of thugs will “capture” a polling place and
cast votes in the names of legitimate voters, who are prevented
from voting themselves24.
Misrecording of Votes
Many elections feature multiple opportunities for unscrupu-
lous officials or “helpers” to record an elector’s vote differently
from their intentions. Voters who require assistance to cast their
votes are particularly vulnerable to having their votes stolen in
this way. For example, a blind person or one who cannot read
the language of the ballot paper may be told that they have
voted for one party when in fact they have been led to vote for
21Wisconsin Democratic voters targeted with Koch-funded absentee ballot
notices advising them to vote two days after the recall election. 2 August
22Lacayo, Richard. “Florida recount: In the eye of the storm”. CNN.
23Stealing Elections, Revised and Updated: How Voter Fraud Threate ns Ou
/John Fund (2008) 224-226.
24Kiesling, John Brady, “Charting Electoral Fraud: Turnout Distribution
Analysis as a Tool for Election Assessment” [2].
25hpilkin, Sergey, Mathematics of Elections—Vote Fraud Ruling Shifts
Pennsylvania Senate New Y ork Times, February 19, 1994.
18Joseph Grego,
history of parliamentary elections and electioneering in
the old days (1886) pp. 226-28 onlin e.
19Did bomb thre at stifle vote? (Capital Times, May, 2 010).
20Parliamentary Electorates And Elections Act 1912—Section 149,New
South Wales Consolidated Acts.
Copyright © 2013 SciRe s .
Misuse of Proxy Votes
Proxy voting is particularly vulnerable to election fraud due
to the amount of trust placed in the person who casts the vote.
In several countries there have been allegations of retirement
home residents being asked to fill out “absentee voter” forms.
When the forms are signed and gathered, they are then secretly
rewritten as applications for proxy votes, naming party activists
or their friends and relatives as the proxies. These people, un-
known to the voter, then cast the vote for the party of their
Destruction or Invalidation of Ballots
One of the simplest methods of electoral fraud is to simply
destroy ballots for the “wrong” candidate or party. This is un-
usual in functioning democracies as it is difficult to do without
attracting attention. However in a very close election it might
be possible to destroy a very small number of ballot papers
without detection, thereby changing the overall result. Blatant
destruction of ballot papers can render an election invalid and
force it to be re-run27.
Vote Fraud in the Legislature
Vote fraud can also take place in legislatures. Some of the
forms used in national elections can also be used in parliaments,
particularly intimidation and vote-buying. In many legisl atures,
voting is public, in contrast to the secret ballot used in most
modern public elections. This may make their elections more
vulnerable to some forms of fraud, since a politician can be
pressured by others who will know how he or she has voted.
However, it may also protect against bribery and blackmail
since the public and media will be aware if a politician votes in
an unexpected way. This method served in stopping former
president Obasanjo from accomplishing his infamous “3rd term
tenure elongation agenda” when, on the floor of the National
Assembly, legislators, afraid of the recall powers of their con-
stituents watching the tenure elongation debates in a live tele-
cast, voted against that unconstitutional amendment sought by
the former president o extend his presidency without popular or
constitutional mandate.
Electoral Fraud and Voting Machines
All voting systems face threats of some form of electoral
fraud. The types of threats that affect voting machines can vary
from other forms of voting systems, some threats may be pre-
vented and others introduced. Some forms of electoral fraud
specific to electronic voting machines include: tampering with
the software of a voting machine to add malicious code altering
vote totals or favor any candidate; tampering with the hardware
of the voting machine to alter vote totals or favor any candidate;
or abusing the administrative access to the machine by election
officials might also allow individuals to vote multiple times28.
It is worthwhile to emphasize the fact despite the nature,
specie or morphology of electoral fraud as a phenomenon in
emerging democracies. It needs to be checkmate and prevented.
The concepts of secrecy and openness are used as too good
preventive measures to checkmate electoral fraud. This is be-
cause it is well known29 the secret ballot system of voting pre-
vents directly several incidents of voter intimidation, manipula-
tion, vote selling, buying while openness of the entire electoral
process by an independent and just electoral management body
(such as the 2011 INEC in Nigeria under Professor Jega) not
only helps to checkmate electoral fraud in its various ugly
With respect to legislative electoral fraud open voting by leg-
islators and covered by the media enhances the electoral integ-
rity of legislative assemblies. It also increases the credible rep-
resentative value of legislators as it ensures that they role in
accordance with the wishes and interest of their constituencies
who are watching their voting pattern in parliament. This par-
ticular transparency in legislative voting helped actually in
checkmating the kind third ambition of Nigeria’s former presi-
dent Olusegun Obasanjo who wanted to bribe and manipulate
the National Assembly with money to support his illegal tenure
elongation project which is unconstitutional and unpopular in
the country. The then president wanted to use voter fraud tech-
nique to win the votes of the Nigerian Senate and the House of
Representatives for a tenure elongation which is not legally
backed by Nigeria’s constitution.
Generally speaking we may also factor election observation
as part of the preventative measures to checkmate electoral
fraud in general elections, especially in a new democracies.
Essentially, election observers save the purpose of helping to
identify areas where fraud could be perpetrated, sensitize its
staff to stop and assure voters that they certify the election to be
free, fair and transparent. For example part of the duties pro-
grams assigned and carried out by both local and international
observers in the 2011 election in Nigeria was to prevent fraud
in the central tabulation carried out by INEC came out with an
open public list of results from all the polling booths and at the
end of voting announced the result before the eagle eyes of
observers, party agents and the voters. Nigerian legislatures at
the local, state and national chambers may want also to experi-
ment with domestic observation of its voting patterns to reduce
the incidence of voter-buying, “Ghana must go” money spree
and money for budget approvals from Federal Ministers.
The principle of one man, one woman one vote under girds
the success of every democracy. In every election this principle
is put to severe test and evaluation both by the people, election
observers, monitors, and society groups and even those in the
government who will participate in the election to test their
popularity or unpopularity are agreed that electoral fraud either
at the general election or in the legislature chambers truncates
democracy, cheats the and demise them the dividends of both
democracy and development. Electoral fraud has been identi-
fied as one of the most devastating reasons why Nigeria has
remained poor in the midst of her abundant natural, human and
mineral resources. This is why this article considers “electoral
fraud as the worst form of corruption”29. Before the 2011 April
26Jeannette I. Andrade (2011-11-18). “Electoral sabotage case filed vs Ar-
royo, Ampatuan, Bedol”. Philippine Daily Inquirer. See, for example the
ational Voting Rights Institute report on New York State incarceration
policies: [1].
27Layton, J., “ How can someon e tamper wi th an elect ronic vo ting machine”. Retrieved 2011-02-
28Tom Feeble: 1977, pp. 140-149.
elections, various stakeholders and pillars of Nigeria’s democ-
racy attended a rally in Benin with the objective wring with the
29Youaltern: 30 April, 2011,Presidential Commitment to Electoral Reform
Speech, Benin).
Copyright © 2013 SciRe s . 173
Copyright © 2013 SciRe s .
best shategy of strengthening and stabilizing her democracy
through electoral reforms. Electoral fraud was identified as the
number one fundamental factor militating against eh emergence
of a matured participatory and pro-people democracy in Nige-
To checkmate and end the incidence of electoral fraud in
Nigeria’s democracy this article advocates more rigorous
transparency, increased people participation in the pre-during,
and post election phases in the future as well reflected and
modeled by the new INEC under the leadership of Professor
Attahiru Jega. The success of the 2011 Election in Nigeria was
hailed locally and globally because they succeeded in reducing
electoral fraud to the barest minimum, a clear departure from
the past. Electoral Fraud in Nigeria could be further prevented
and the integrity, transparency and credibility of our democracy
enhanced with different globally tested and proven methods of
prevention. Fraud prevention techniques could be summarised
as “secrecy and openness”. The secret ballot prevents many
kinds of intimidation and vote selling, while transparency at all
other levels of the electoral process prevents most interference.
We can summarize some of the acceptable methods used in the
developed democracies to checkmate the incidence of electoral
fraud as: the secret ballot system of voting; transparency; statis-
tical indicators or legal prosecution of culprits of voter frauds.
We can also conclude this article with a brief rundown and
analysis of the content of each methodology as follows:
Secret Ballot
The secret ballot, in which the general public does not know
how individuals have voted, is a crucial part of ensuring free
and fair election through preventing voter intimidation or retri-
bution. Although it was sometimes practiced in ancient Greece
and was a part of the French Constitution of 1795, it only be-
came common in the nineteenth century. Secret balloting ap-
pears to have been first implemented in the former British col-
ony—now an Australian state—of Tasmania on 7 February
1856. By the turn of the century the practice had spread to most
Western democracies. Before this it was common for candi-
dates to intimidate or bribe voters, as they always knew who
had voted which way31.
Most methods of preventing electoral fraud involve making
the election process completely transparent to all voters, from
nomination of candidates through casting of the votes and
tabulation. A key feature in insuring the integrity of any part of
the electoral process is a strict chain of custody. To prevent
fraud in central tabulation, there has to be a public list of the
results from every single polling place. This is the only way for
voters to prove that the results they witnessed in their election
office are correctly incorporated into the totals. In many cases,
election observers are used to help prevent fraud and assure
voters that the election is fair. International observers (bilateral
and multilateral) may be invited to observe the elections32
(examples include election observation by the Organization for
Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), European Union
election observation missions, observation missions of the
Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), of the African
Union as well as international and local observation organized
by NGOs, such as European Network of Election Monitoring
Organizations (ENEMO) of the Centre for Peacebuilding and
Poverty Reduction (CEPPER)). This was particularly effective
during Nigeria’s 2011 Elections when INEC invited both for-
eign and domestic observer missions with NGOS to witness
and monitor the integrity of the voting process to ensure trans-
Statistical Indicators
Various forms of statistics can be indicators for election
fraud e.g. exit polls which diverge from the final results. Well-
conducted exit polls serve as a deterrent to electoral fraud. High
numbers of invalid ballots, overvoting or undervoting are other
potential indicators33.
In countries with strong laws and effective legal systems,
lawsuits can be brought against those who have allegedly
committed fraud; but determent with legal prosecution would
not be enough. Although the penalties for getting caught may
be severe, the rewards for succeeding are likely to be worth the
risk. The rewards range from benefits in contracting to total
control of a country. In Nigeria, calls for stiffer penalties for
electoral fraud and malpractices have led to 2010 Electoral Law
Reforms which have established INEC Electoral Tribunal to try
and imprison violators and perpetrators of electoral fraud in
Nigeria. This is what has worked in other electoral climes to
stabilize democractic governance for development. It is there-
fore a combination of both prevention and deterrence strategies
could reduce the incidence.
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30Oshimole: April, 2011 Rally , Benin, Nigeria.
31Gill, K. “Help America Vote Act—HAVA”.
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