'Fears of e-voting unfounded'

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HARARE – Zimbabwe's election watchdogs have said fears that the bio-metric voter registration (BVR) and electronic voting system were vulnerable to computer hacking were unfounded.

This comes after State media has hazarded that e-voting was vulnerable to hacking, costly and was not a means to an end.

There is also confusion whether BVR together with e-voting will both be used.

In an address to the National Assembly on February 22, Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa said the bio-metric system will be used during both registration and the actual voting process.

“We never said it would not go full throttle. We agreed that the bio-metric system would be used in coming up with a voters’ roll up until the actual voting,” Mnangagwa said.

The largest independent observer group Zimbabwe Election Support (Zesn) said there is need to ensure that there is no executive interference in the electoral processes.

The leading domestic monitoring body said its understanding was that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) intends to use the technology solely for the purposes of capturing bio-metric features such as fingerprints during voter registration in order to create a new voters’ roll for the 2018 harmonised elections and not for e-voting.

“Thus, Zesn believes that the fears of technology failure are unfounded given that the technology will only be used for registering voters,” Zesn leader Rindai Chipfunde-Vava said.

“On election day, voters will still be required to present their identification documents and be issued with a paper ballot paper and not vote electronically.

“Hence, it is important to note that there will be no technology failure on election day as Zec will issue printed copies of the voters’ roll at polling stations,” it said, adding it was “imperative for Zec to clarify the issue of the BVR viz-a-viz e-voting.”

Election Resource Centre (ERC) said everything else except the capturing of bio-metric features remains manual in the case of Zimbabwe and difficult to hack.

“What can be hacked in BVR; can also be the same under a manual process whose versions are kept as electronic as demanded by the Electoral Act,” ERC said in a statement yesterday. The poll watchdog also rejected claims that BVR is more expensive, saying voter registration in 2013 cost $15,8 million out of a requested $25 million.

“Important to note is the fact that infrastructure for voter registration was already in place at the Registrar General, it was extension of voter registration as compared to new voter registration, and the result was a disputed voters’ roll.

“Zec has requested $29 million for BVR, including procurement of the kits. A new voter registration process, a new infrastructure, and a de-duplication process are new features. Certainly, this is not more expensive. The ERC contends that a manual process would be more expensive,” it said.

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