CONSTITUTION WATCH 18/2013
[12th March 2013]
The Referendum – Further Information
Entitlement to Vote
Every Zimbabwean citizen who is 18 years or above on polling day is eligible to cast a vote on presentation of:
· a Zimbabwean national identity card or waiting pass showing that he or she is a citizen, or
· a valid Zimbabwean passport showing that he or she is a citizen.
Warning for Zimbabwean citizens still holding “alien” id cards – you need to get a new id if you want to vote in the referendum. If you have been become a citizen since getting your ID card, ZEC advises that you visit the Registrar-General’s Office to obtain either a new ID or waiting pass showing your Zimbabwean citizenship. Your certificate of citizenship will not be accepted at a polling station as proof of eligibility to vote in the referendum; ZEC acting chairperson Joyce Kazembe categorically stated this on 8th March. [ZEC has confirmed that it has specifically retracted its earlier position that a certificate of citizenship, plus old alien ID, would be accepted as proof of eligibility, as stated in Constitution Watch 11/2013.]
There will be 9 449 polling stations countrywide. Provisional lists of all the polling stations have already been published as supplements to daily newspapers – though difficult to read the fine print. The final list must be published in the press at least 48 hours before the date of the Referendum, i.e., before midnight on Wednesday 13th March, which means it will have to be published in the Wednesday papers. [Referendums regulations, SI 26/2013, section 6(4), which also says the list must be published in the Government Gazette and on the ZEC website www.zec.org.zw – which, at the time of writing, seems to be inactive].
ZEC has said that 12 million ballot papers are being printed. The plan is that each polling station will be supplied with twice its estimated needs. ZEC also has contingency plans in place for prompt delivery of extra ballot-papers to any polling station showing signs of running out of ballot papers. The Air Force will assist if necessary.
Polling Times: 7 am to 7 pm
People already in the queue waiting to cast their votes at 7 pm will be allowed to vote after 7 pm. There is also provision, in section 6(5) of the Referendum regulations, that if a polling station cannot be opened on time at 7 am, the returning officer will open later and extend closing time to ensure that voters have at least 12 continuous hours in which to cast their votes at that polling station.
ZEC will have posters in every polling station displaying the Directions to Guide Voters in Voting spelled out in the Second Schedule to the Referendums regulations, which are as follows:
DIRECTIONS TO GUIDE VOTERS IN VOTING
1. A voter may only vote once.
2. When a voter has received a ballot paper, he or she must take it to the compartment provided for the purpose. In the compartment the voter must indicate on the ballot paper whether or not he or she is in favour of [here state the question or issue that is to be decided at the referendum].
If the voter is in favour, he or she must make a cross in the rectangle opposite the word “YES” like this─
If the voter is against, he or she must make a cross in the rectangle (box) opposite the word “NO” like this─
3. The voter must then fold the ballot paper so that the official mark can be seen and the cross he or she has made cannot be seen.
4. The voter must then go to the ballot box, hold the ballot paper up so that the returning officer can recognize the official mark on it, and must then drop the paper in the ballot box in front of the returning officer.
5. A voter MUST NOT sign his or her name on the ballot paper, and MUST NOT make any mark on it that might reveal his or her identity. If a ballot paper is signed or has such a mark on it, it will be considered a blank ballot paper and will not be counted.
6. If a voter inadvertently spoils a ballot paper, he or she may return it to the returning officer, who may give the voter another paper.
Voting by Illiterate or Physically Handicapped Persons
Section 14 of the new Referendums Regulations states that section 59 of the Electoral Act will apply [complete text of Act available from firstname.lastname@example.org]. This means that illiterate or physically handicapped persons may be assisted to vote in either of the following two ways:
Assistance by person chosen by voter
An illiterate or physically handicapped person will be permitted to select someone else to assist him or her in exercising the vote. The selected assistant need not be a registered voter, but must be at least 18 years old, produce proper identification and sign a register. An accredited observer cannot act as an assistant, nor can one individual assist more than one voter.
Assistance by ZEC polling station returning officer
If no assistant has been selected by a voter, he or she will be assisted by the returning officer in the presence of two other electoral officers or ZEC officials and one police officer on duty at the polling station.
Every instance of assisted voting must be recorded in the Protocol Register [see below].
Polling Station Registers
The returning officer of every polling station will keep a Voters Register recording the name, ID particulars, and date of birth and gender of everyone who is given a ballot paper to vote at that polling station.
This is a separate register in which the returning officer must record:
· the names of persons who have not been allowed to vote because not eligible
· every instance of assisted voting
· noteworthy occurrences within or in connection with the polling station.
Registers remain secret after the poll
The registers are not public documents open to later inspection. They are treated as secret. After the counting of votes at the polling station, the Voters Register is placed in a sealed packet by the returning officer, as are the used ballot papers. The sealed packets are then placed in the ballot box which is sealed in its turn. The ballot box remains sealed thereafter. The seals may be broken and the contents accessed only under the authority of an order of the Electoral Court.
Veritas makes every effort to ensure reliable information, but cannot take legal responsibility for information supplied