Zimbabwe Electoral Commission plans to introduce biometric voting for 2018 polls

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Zimbabwe will engage international experts for implementation of a biometric voting system for the 2018 general election, among other significant changes to the polling framework.
The biometric system the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission plans to introduce will scan for either fingerprints or the iris and is already in use in African countries like Kenya and Ghana.
As part of the electoral modifications, Zimbabwe will for the first time use polling station-based voting as the country seeks to engender greater transparency and dispute-free elections.
The Sunday Mail reported that ZEC is currently assessing demonstrations by international biometric service providers to ascertain which technology works best for Zimbabwe.
Biometric voting is fast, accurate, reliable and helps maintain the integrity and credibility of electoral processes by reducing mistrust and irregularities.
Responding to inquiries from this publication, ZEC spokesperson Mr Justin Manyau said: “In order to ensure that the commission is conversant with biometric voter registration technology, it has invited several international service providers in bio-metrics to carry out demonstrations with the hope of assessing applicability of the technology locally, the cost factor, usability and sustainability of the new technology.
“The commission is still at a consultative stage in terms of bio-metric voter registration. Working in collaboration with the UNDP and other co-operating partners, ZEC has engaged consultants in voter registration and voter education to advise on the various options that may be available to the commission.
“The cost of adopting bio-metric voter registration depends on the type of technology selected. Since the commission is still at a consultative stage concerning the adoption of this technology, it is not possible to put an exact cost to the system.”
He said while introduction of the polling station voting system is still at the formative stage, the commission was piloting the system.
The system was first piloted in the September 19, 2015 Marondera Central by-election and was also used in the Nkulumane by-election of December 19, 2015.
Polling station-based voting is provided for under Section 22A of the Amended Electoral Act.
In terms of the law, ZEC consults all interested parties when determining polling station locations. A roll is prepared for registered voters in a given area.
Each voting centre gets a unique code incorporating polling station and ward numbers as well as local authority and district codes.
The polling station threshold is expected to be between 500 and 1 500 voters to ensure manageable voter distribution.
The provision on polling stations will become effective once a notice is published in the Government Gazette fixing the date on which Section 22A becomes operational.
The section reads, in part: “(1) The commission shall — (a) subject to section 51, determine — (i) the places where polling stations are to be situated within each ward and constituency for the purposes of all elections in terms of this Act; and (ii) the areas within the ward or constituency concerned that are to be served by each such polling station; and (b) subject to Parts IV and V, prepare a voters’ roll for each polling station area determined in terms of paragraph (a)(ii), on which roll shall be entered the names of all registered voters ordinarily resident within the area.
“(2) The commission shall consult all interested parties when determining the location of polling stations and their areas for the purposes of subsection (1).
“(3) Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, where a voters’ roll has been prepared for a polling station area – (a) voters who are registered on that roll shall cast their votes in any election at the polling station for whose area the roll was prepared, unless they are permitted by this Act to vote by post or to cast a special vote.”
Several reforms have been carried out by Government to eliminate electoral disputes.
These include amendments made to the Electoral Act that President Mugabe signed into law in 2014.
Other reforms are that ZEC must announce Presidential election results within five days of polling day, while police officers are barred from “taking part or interfering with the electoral process beyond maintaining law and order.”
ZEC is obliged to warn election candidates, election agents or parties implicated in acts of political violence and to set up special courts to try such cases.