Tuesday, April 29, 2014

ZEC Unveils New Voting System 
Zimbabwe Electoral Commission chairperson Justice Rita
Makarau and her deputy Mrs Joyce Kazembe arrive for
the voters' registration stakeholders' conference in Harare
April 28, 2014.
April 29, 2014
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Herald Reporter

VOTERS will cast their ballots at a particular polling station within their wards instead of voting at any centre in the same area, while those in the Diaspora will be allowed to register under a new voting system proposed by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission. ZEC chairperson Justice Rita Makarau said the proposed polling station-based voter registration system would curb double voting, voting by ineligible people and possible inflation of votes for participating candidates.

The new system means that there will be a localised voting system to be conducted using a polling station-based voters’ roll and a voter will only cast a ballot at the polling station at which his or her name appears on the voters’ roll.

The voter registration system being used now is ward-based and voters could vote at any polling station within their wards.

Apart from those in the Diaspora, prisoners and patients admitted in hospitals would also be registered as voters.

The two-day conference, which ends today, sought to get the input on the proposed processes and modalities from political parties, voter registration experts, civil society, churches, traditional leaders, people with disabilities and local authorities.

The stakeholders welcomed the new system, saying it would add credibility and transparency to the country’s voting system.

Section 239 of the new Constitution mandates ZEC to register voters, compile voters’ rolls and registers and to ensure proper custody and maintenance of the voters’ rolls and registers.

The task used to fall under the office of the Registrar-General of Voters.

Justice Makarau said amendments to Section 22A of the Electoral Act introduced the polling station voter registration system and as such, the electoral body would establish a voter registration department.

“The law has provided that at a later stage we should move from the ward-based voter registration system to the polling station-based system. It is a requirement imposed upon us by the law,” she said.

“The advantage is that a name of a person appears only once at a polling station and for us as managers it is easy because we will only print a person’s name once.

“In the current scenario a person’s name appears at both polling stations in a ward and if they are five your name is appearing five times at the polling stations and for us to manage that it becomes more difficult.”

According to the model, Zec will embark on a massive mapping of voting areas to determine the polling stations for the electorate.

Each polling station will be given a unique code incorporating the polling station number in the ward, ward number, local authority code and district code.

“The process will involve the establishment of the polling station areas that will be done by assigning households/grouping blocks to a particular polling station and giving it a number within a ward structure,” read the model.

“Polling stations within a ward will be arranged alphabetically for easy referencing within the ward structure. It also involves the allocation of unique codes to each polling station and considerations will also be given on distances, population density, infrastructure available in the voting area and community of interest.”

The polling station threshold will be between 500 and 1500 voters while voter population density will be dealt with so that there is a fair distribution of voters at each polling station.

Zec deputy chairperson Mrs Joyce Kazembe said the envisaged model seeks to come up with mechanisms that check if all data is up to date and process any amendments on time.

“It provides mechanism for the public to lodge administrative challenges to errors, omissions and inclusions in the voters roll,” she said.

“It also permits reasonable access to the voters roll by political parties, candidates and anyone else wishing to access the national, constituency or ward voters roll. It will also give clear reasons for rejecting an application for registration and all qualified persons will be registered including such groups like prisoners, those in hospitals and in the diaspora.”

Electoral Commission of Zambia deputy director of elections Mr Brown Kasaro and an independent consultant from Ghana Mr Hubert Akumiah who critiqued the model, described the new system as “good and ideal.”

Said Mr Akumiah: “This is a good system that should be ICT driven and it is in line with internationally accepted principles and practices of voter registration.

“There is need for sustainability. A good model that is not sustainable will eventually breakdown. And sustainability will depend on technical, political and economic factors.”

Added Mr Kasaro: “For it to be effective the mapping of polling stations should first be completed before anything else. People should also be patient with Zec and the Commission should also carry along with it stakeholders in every stage because there is nothing as important as stakeholder engagement.”

Zanu-PF spokesperson Cde Rugare Gumbo said he did not have enough information on the proposed model, but it sounded like it was in the right direction.

“It’s effectiveness will only be tested when they start implementing it.”
Mr Tawanda Chimhini from the Election Resource Centre and MDC-T’s Sessel Zvidzai said the model should address the challenges that marred the voter registration exercise ahead of last year’s harmonised election.

“There is a movement in terms of preparing for a comprehensive registration. There is the opening up of the voter registration to various stakeholders that will lead us into credible elections,” Mr Chimhini said.

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