By Nkanyiso Ncube
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) announced that it will roll the new voter registration exercise using the biometric voter registration kits (BVR) in preparation for the 2018 election.
For voter registration to be fair, comprehensive, and inclusive, potential voters must be aware of the registration process and have reasonable opportunities and relatively easy access to participate and complete it.
Below we have picked guiding principles that ZEC need to adhere to when conducting the voter registration exercise.
Voter registration framework and processes must be fair and honest, free from political and other manipulation or intimidation, allow all eligible persons to register as voters and not allow ineligible persons to register as voters.
Voter registration frameworks and processes should not contain measures that exclude persons from registration to serve political advantage. For example, there should be no: criteria for eligibility to register; differentiation in resources provided for registration processes; differentiation in accessibility; differentiation in assurances for security or safety; or
imposition of additional checks or administrative obstacles that may deny one the opportunity to register to vote, or make it more difficult to register to vote for persons assumed to have a certain political tendency.
Voter registration exercises should aim at registering 100 percent of qualified persons, including those societal groups that may be less inclined to register to vote, such as women, youth and those to whom standard registration processes may be less accessible.
All voter registration information should be recorded accurately and maintained properly so that the voter lists used for elections are up to date. This may require implementing systems to check data validity and the accuracy of data recording, as well as proactive programs to check that all data is up to date and to receive advice of and process any necessary amendments.
Voter registration processes should be physically and geographically accessible as well as readily understandable by all persons qualified to register. Any locations used for voter registration purposes and which require the public to attend to provide or check information should be: physically accessible to all including the elderly and disabled among others.
An informed public
Voter registration processes should be clearly explained and widely publicized to all potential eligible voters as well as to all stakeholder organisations in the electoral process, such as political parties, the media and civil society organisations (CSOs).
Field registration staff and people registering to vote must be assured of their safety and security. Voters must be able to trust that registering to vote will not result in their being subjected to consequent discrimination, intimidation or violence.
Registration staff must be supervised and protected against any action by outside persons so that they can conduct their work in an honest, professional and impartial manner.
By Nkanyiso Ncube