HARARE – Proposition that persons should be allowed to vote anywhere in the country upon production of their national identity documentation cards (IDs) for the 2018 general election is a recipe for electoral chaos, analysts have said.
There have been calls by some political actors for the abandonment of the voters’ roll to allow for voters to solely use IDs for verification on election day.
The analysts are fearful that with significant numbers of Zimbabweans who have neither identification cards nor birth certificates, the ID voter system would allow the Registrar-General — widely viewed as being politically partisan and manipulative — to play a key role because it is his office that issues ID cards.
For many persons obtaining this documentation remains problematic, yet without this they would be disenfranchised if they need it to vote.
The analysts said simply put, the proposed ID voting system just will not work. They argue that while biometric voter registration (BVR) does not solve all voting problems, it is a step in the right direction as it ensures credible data, will provide a new voter registration process, a new infrastructure and a de-duplication process.
Election Resource Centre (ERC) director Tawanda Chimhini said if the electoral commission opts to use the ID system it would face a great challenge to determine the number of ballot papers to print.
“The proponents of ID voting argue for printing of ballot papers equivalent to the population of the country. This is highly dangerous as large numbers of extra ballot papers could be misused for ballot fraud.
“It would also be difficult to decide how to allocate polling stations around the country as it would be unknown how many people are likely to vote at particular polling stations if people can vote anywhere with just their ID.
“There are also insurmountable problems for the electoral commission to decide how the ballot papers are to be distributed around polling stations and the country.”
Chimhini queried how voting manipulation would be monitored. “Without the new polling station specific registration, an ID voter system would give way to the opportunity to flooding a constituency with voters who have no connection with that constituency and voting in favour of a specific party to win.
“An ID voter system makes monitoring voters in any constituency impossible.”
The ERC director said the system will not protect voters’ privacy as at each polling station the electoral officers would have to note down the ID particulars of each voter so there is a record of persons voting at that station.
“This would be laborious but the process itself can be used as an intimidation tactic. Acquiring voters’ ID numbers could lead to suspicions that voting will no longer be private and people may be misled that who they are and how they voted can be traced and they can be tracked down.
Chimhini said there are some necessary requirements for a person to be able to vote; by law, a person must register to vote.
“Both the Constitution and the Electoral Act make it obligatory to register voters and for voters to vote only if they appear on the voters’ roll. Furthermore, under the new polling station specific registration, registered voters must now vote at the specific polling station at which they are registered.”
Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) national director Rindai Vava said her organisation notes with concern calls by some political actors for the abandonment of the voters’ roll to allow for voters to solely use IDs for verification on election day.
“There is need for clarity from the political actors on the operationalisation of this call given that IDs have been used for verification of information on the voters’ roll on election day for every election in Zimbabwe.
“Zesn believes that using IDs without the voters’ roll has gaps and inadequacies that would cause a number of administrative and logistical challenges to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) thereby severely inhibiting the commission’s ability to deliver a credible election in 2018.
“Hence the calls to do away with the voters’ roll are retrogressive and will only serve to weaken rather than strengthen the electoral process in Zimbabwe.”
She said section 239(d) of the Constitution gives Zec the mandate to compile the voters’ roll thus calls to hold elections without a voters’ roll would require a constitutional amendment and will compromise the independence of the Commission given that it is not the custodian of the civil registry.
“Zesn notes that although the use of IDs is a reliable form of identification, it does not guarantee that the issues that have been of concern in past elections such as double voting and allegations of voting by ineligible persons will be averted.
“In addition to the use of indelible marker ink, there is need for mechanisms to ensure that only eligible voters exercise the right to vote and the voters’ roll provides a good basis and database to ascertain the eligibility of voters.
“Furthermore, Zesn notes that the use of IDs in place of the voters’ roll will pose operational and logistical nightmares for Zec in terms of determining the number of ballot papers to be printed and the distribution of the ballot papers around the country, the number of polling stations to set up and auditing of the electoral process.
“The commission, political parties and CSOs will face challenges in designing effective voter education and outreach campaigns in the absence of demographics of the voting population as contained in voters’ rolls,” said Vava.
She added that Zesn reiterates its position that although biometric voter registration is not the panacea for Zimbabwe’s electoral problem it will go a long way in enhancing trust and confidence in the electoral system in Zimbabwe by offering significant protection against double registrations and inaccuracies.
“Zec should be given a chance to produce a fresh voters’ roll and the government must avail adequate resources to ensure that the voter registration exercise is effectively conducted.”