What is Over-voting In An Election?

Last updated on February 27th, 2023 at 05:14 pm


Over-voting in an election occurs when the number of votes cast is more than the number of accredited voters at an election in a polling unit.

In Nigeria, Electoral Act, 2022 is very clear on what constitutes over-voting, unlike the previous definition of overvoting.

Before President Muhammadu Buhari signed the amended Electoral Bill on February 25, 2022, over-voting was defined as when the number of votes cast is more than the total number of registered voters in a polling unit.


The Electoral Act, 2022 has displaced the above definition rendering it invalid. The new electoral act 2022, section 51 clearly defines overvoting as:

ways to make your vote count electoral system

When a voter voted for more than one candidate or record more than one vote in favour of a candidate at any one election.

Section 51, subsection 2 states that there is an overvoting

Where the number of votes cast at an election in any polling unit exceeds the number of accredited voters in that polling unit,…”

What happens when there is over-voting?

When there is an over-voting,  the Presiding officer is compelled by the Electoral Act, 2022 to cancel the result of the election in that polling unit.

What happens if the presiding officer fails to cancel the overvote?

In a situation whereby the presiding officer in a polling unit failed to cancel the overvotes, any of the contestants in the election is permitted by law to challenge such votes at the tribunal.

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Example of over-voting

If there are 5,400 registered voters in a polling unit, but only 1,200 voters were accredited, there is no way the number of votes cast can be more than 1,200.

If in any case, the number of votes cast is 1,201, that is over-voting and the law requires that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) cancel the election in the affected polling unit.

Electoral Act, 2022 section 51 (4) further states that:

Notwithstanding the provisions of subsections (2) and (3) the Commission may, if satisfied that the result of the election will not substantially be affected by voting in the area where the election is cancelled, direct that a return of the election be made.

Electoral Act, 2022

The world witnessed a case of over-voting in the Osun State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal on Friday, January 27, 2023.

The election tribunal deducted overvotes from the votes received by the candidate of PDP Ademola Adeleke in the July 16, 2022, Osun governorship election, resulting in overturn of his victory.

The former governor of the state Mr Gboyega Oyetola who contested for a second term during the election was subsequently declared the winner because his valid votes were more than Adeleke’s.

In the collated 2023 presidential election result, there are allegations of over-voting in some units across Nigeria. Aggrieved parties can challenge such an anomaly at the tribunal.


The total number of accredited voters is now a factor in determining over-voting at election tribunals.

According to Electoral Act, 2022, over-voting occurs when votes cast exceed the number of accredited voters.

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According to ballotpedia, there is an overvote when a voter casts votes in an election more than is allowed.

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