ELECTION WATCH 21
[16th February 2018]
BVR Mop-up Exercise has Ended, But Voter Registration Continues at ZEC District Offices
Next Stage in Producing a Voters Roll is Delayed
BVR Voter Registration Mop-up Exercise
Zimbabwe Electoral Commission [ZEC]’s countrywide Biometric Voter Registration [BVR] Exercise ended on Thursday 8th February. The BVR Exercise, which officially started on 14th September last year, covered all wards and constituencies in the country in an effort to take voter registration facilities closer to where would-be voters actually live. In addition to the permanent registration centres at ZEC’s provincial and district offices, the exercise involved setting up extra static and mobile voter registration centres at a large number of locations round the country during two periods – an initial “blitz” from October to 19th December and a month-long “mop-up” exercise from 10th January to 8th February.
According to ZEC, a record number of Zimbabweans, just over 5.3. million people, have registered to vote. For those that want to see the ZEC official distribution by province it is on the Veritas website [link]
Continuing Voter Registration
For those not yet registered, registration will continue, but at ZEC’s provincial and district offices only. See list with addresses on Veritas website [link]. But only persons voters registered up to 12 days after the day for nomination of candidates in the coming election will be included on the voters roll for this election [the nomination date is not yet known but will be dictated by the electoral timetable once the election has been proclaimed].
BVR is an exercise to create an entirely new voters roll from scratch. Everyone who was on the old roll has to register afresh to be on the new roll as well as people who were never on the voters roll before, for whatever reason.
Applicants for Registration who Were Turned Away
ZEC itself and observers of the registration exercise have reported people being turned away by voter registration officers for various reasons, mostly citizens holding IDs marked “Alien” but without long birth certificates and those without, or with illegible, IDs.
Alien ID’s without Long Birth Certificates Turned Away
These are usually older people as they were born before long birth certificates were issued automatically and have not been able to change their short birth certificates for long ones. On learning of this problem, Veritas drew it to the attention of ZEC, pointing out that as this amounted to unconstitutional discrimination on the grounds of age, and suggested that they should allow such people to produce affidavit evidence about their parents’ places of birth – making use of the numerous ZEC officials who had been made temporary commissioners of oaths [also on Veritas’ suggestion]. With all the changes going on in ZEC this suggestion was not implemented. But it is hoped that this – or some other solution – will implemented during continuing registration at ZEC’s provincial and district offices, and that ZEC will make it widely known.
Note: After a court case taken by both MDC political parties and Sarah Kachingwe and successfully argued by Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights [ZLHR], ZEC agreed that Zimbabweans whose national IDs are inscribed “ALIEN” are eligible to register if they produce long birth certificates that indicate that: they were born in or outside Zimbabwe but either of their parents were citizens of Zimbabwe; or they were born in Zimbabwe and one or both of their parents were citizens of a Southern African Development Community (SADC) country.
Those without ID documents or Defaced/Unreadable ID’s
The only option for these people if they want to vote is to go to their nearest Registrar-Generals provincial or district office and get a replacement ID or passport.
Right to Appeal
According to section 27 of the Electoral Act, whenever a voter registration officer refuses to register a person, the applicant has a right to appeal to a magistrate if she/he believes the refusal is wrong. The voter registration officer should inform the applicant accordingly and give her/him a “notice of objection” explaining the reason/s for the refusal [there is a prescribed form VR5]. The disappointed applicant then has at least seven days within which to appeal to a magistrate, using a form provided with the “notice of objection” form.
Checking for Duplicate Registrations
Once the registered voters from the BVR blitz have been collected there has to be a de-duplication process – checking that there are no duplicate registrations. This is done electronically – the biographical details will be checked i.e., name, date of birth, ID number, place of residence, as well as the biometric details i.e. finger print and eye photo. The biometric de-duplication needs special software [AFIS]. This stage will be delayed by the current court case over ZEC’s tender award for the provision of this software. An unsuccessful tenderer – which happens to be the company [Laxton] that provided the hardware, software and technical assistance for the BVR stage – has appealed to the Administrative Court against the award of the contract for the de-duplication stage to another company [Ipsidy]. The appeal has been strongly opposed by both ZEC and Ipsidy. The case came before the Administrative Court on 7th February and judgment was reserved. The parties’ heads of argument submitted to the court will be posted on Veritas’s website as soon as possible.
As a result of the court case, there will be delay in the procurement of the de-duplication software. There may be further delays if either party decides to appeal the judgment.
Time is running short. Whatever the outcome of the case, time is needed to link the existing data from the BVR to the new software. Without the co-operation of all parties, that may be difficult. ZEC has anticipated that after the link-up de-duplication will take about four weeks. It is a complex process with each registration being compared against every other – making trillions of comparisons.
Until de-duplication has been completed satisfactorily it will be impossible to produce a credible voters roll. And without a credible voters roll it will be impossible to have a credible election.