Counting the Votes and Proclaiming Results
Articles 86 to 90 of the Electoral Code determine the conditions under which votes are counted in Niger. Article 86 states, “the counting of votes shall begin immediately after the closing of the poll. It shall be steadily continued until its completion. The counting shall be public and conducted under the supervision of the President of the polling station. It must take place inside the polling station.” Article 87, on the other hand, exposes the details of the counting process: “the ballot box shall be opened, and the single ballots and or the envelopes counted in front of all members of the polling station, the delegates and the voters present.” During the counting process, the number of single ballot and/or envelopes is recorded. If they are higher or lower than the number of voters who signed the logs, this shall be consigned in the minutes.
In the counting of votes at each precinct, only envelopes and single ballots found in the ballot box shall be taken into account. Overseers of the counting process, selected among voters, shall publicly empty the envelopes inside the room where the voting took place, withdraw the single ballot, and unfold them. These ballots are divided up in as many piles as there are candidates or lists of candidates, void ballots are put aside. Each pile is counted and the results communicated to the President of the polling station who, in turn, announces them publicly before asking the Secretary to record them. The counting of the vote of one candidate, one party or coalition of parties is verified by his/her representative and by the delegate of another candidate, party or coalition of political parties.
The ballots declared void as well as the envelopes and ballots deemed irregular are countersigned by all members of the polling station and attached to the minutes. The ballots cast and considered spoiled are immediately burnt following the counting process (Article 88 of the Electoral Code). The burning of the ballots is a source of risks. More and more voices are heard around the world, questioning elections results and demanding that all votes be recounted (for example, in Cote d’Ivoire, USA, and Kenya). Because spoiled ballots are burnt following the counting of ballots, there is no way for a candidate to demand a recount of the votes.
After the counting of the votes, the President of the polling station “shall read in loud voice the results of the vote and shall proceed to posting them inside the room or at the entrance polling station.” The results shall be indicated in the minutes drafted by the President of the polling station or the Secretary and shall be signed by all members of the polling station as well as the representatives of political parties, or representatives of candidates in the room. From this moment on, it becomes very difficult to alter the results. The minutes are drafted on special carbon paper with several copies. Each copy is numbered and is deemed to have the same value as an original. The copies are issued to political parties, coalitions of parties, or independent candidates. The minutes are communicated upon request to any voter within the deadlines set for the exercise of recourses against the electoral process. Ballots that are declared void and those expressing a blank vote as well as the documents giving power of attorney are attached to the minutes without delay and sent to the CENI (National Independent Electoral Committee), or the regional committee that will transmit them to the Constitutional Court or the Regional Court, as appropriate. A copy of the minutes shall remain in the archives of the electoral constituency” (Article 89 of the Electoral Code).
The CENI centralizes the results of all electoral constituencies (most of them are transmitted by fax) and they are broadcast by the national radio and television stations as the results are relayed.
Regarding referendums as well as presidential and legislative elections, the Constitutional Court validates and announces the final results (Article 134 of the Electoral Code). As for regional and municipal elections, the Regional Courts have jurisdiction to validate and announce final results (Article 148 of the Electoral Code) before sending them to the Constitutional Court. These two courts also validate candidacies and adjudicate electoral disputes (Article 92 of the Electoral Code).
There seems to be a consensus on the chain of custody and the procedures used to announce results, although there are some complaints about delays. On the other hand, there many recourses for political parties and candidates seeking to void the results of one polling station or another for massive fraud or violation of the provisions of the Code, notably Article 81 regulating the staffing of polling stations and Article 89, related to the minutes of the polling station. As no recourse can be made against the rulings of the Constitutional Court, there is no debate at that level. Claimants accept the rulings of the Court without argument; the Constitutional Court is respected by all political leaders as it has, so far, demonstrated its neutrality and professionalism.
Useful links and documentary resources
- The official website of the Constitutional Court: http://cour-constitutionnelle-niger.org/