The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission is preparing biometric voter registration (BVR) for the 2018 harmonised elections after securing US$50 million from Government and the United Nations Development Programme. ZEC selected one of five BVR systems used in some African countries and officials are familiarising themselves with the technology.
Biometric technology analyses characteristics such as fingerprints for identification and verification during voting, and is tailored to eliminate ghost voters and multiple voting.
Responding to inquiries from The Sunday Mail, acting chief elections officer Mr Utloile Silaigwana said the new electoral management system began with polling station-based polling, which has been used in six parliamentary and eight council by-elections since last September.
On BVR, Mr Silaigwana said, “ZEC is in the preparatory stages of the process. The Commission has conducted stakeholder engagement workshops as it prepares to move towards BVR. Through support from co-operating partners, the Commission has engaged experts in BVR to assist in understanding the system more. “ZEC is working with experts from other African countries who have used BVR before. Furthermore, the Commission has sent its staff on study tours to countries like Zambia, Tanzania, Ghana, South Africa and Uganda, among others, to understudy how the system has been used in these countries and what could be adopted with regards to Zimbabwe.
“The system will require funding to the tune of plus or minus US$50 million. The project will be funded by the Zimbabwean Government with support of the United Nations Development Programme.”
He added: “The polling station specific voting system has been in use since the Marondera Central constituency by-election, and has been subsequently used in all contested by-elections held by the commission between September 2015 to date.
“The system has enabled the commission to have voters’ rolls that are specific to a particular polling station within a ward. The system ensures that a voter’s name appears in one polling station where the voter can cast their vote. The ward boundaries remain unchanged and voters are allocated to polling stations within the ward.”
Polling station-based voting is provided for by Section 22A of the amended Electoral Act which mandates ZEC to consult all interested parties when determining polling station locations
A roll is prepared for registered voters, with each polling station getting a unique code and threshold of between 500 and 1 500 voters. Section 22A 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.”