Zec must adhere to best principles of voter registration

EDITOR — The Election Resource Centre (ERC), notes with concern the reintroduction of the proof of residence as a prerequisite for one to register to vote without any other alternative.

This happening ahead of the imminent voter registration exercise potentially threatens the principle of inclusivity which is desirable for credible elections to be attained.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), in the State media announced that prospective voters are required to produce physical proof of permanent residence for eligibility to register to vote, a shift from an earlier proposal that sought to enlist voters on the roll without producing residency documentation, alternatively allowing prospective voters to use affidavits swearing to their place of residence.

The provision of proof of residence, the ERC notes, will further disenfranchise potential registrants as witnessed in the past before the scrapping of the requirement.

While the ERC acknowledges the fact that Zec, acted on the recommendations from stakehlders, the ERC is deeply worried in that a strict requirement on proof of residence will disenfranchise hordes of prospective voters who invariably could fail to obtain the required proof.

In such a situation any attempt at registering voters conscious of administrative hurdles like proof of residence will fall short of fulfilling the voter registration principle of accessibility.

The ERC is worried that obtaining a proof of residence might be a challenge to many people in the both rural and urban areas who are likely to be disenfranchised by the requirement due to known constraints related to reluctance by traditional leaders and land owners who might be miffed by one’s
allegiance to a particular political inclination.

Section 67 (3) of Zimbabwe’s Constitution provides the right to vote to every Zimbabwean who is 18 or over, however, this right will potentially be violated as many Zimbabweans struggle to secure  proof of residence.

The ERC insists that Zec must revisit the recommendation that it takes into consideration and must also be guided by the international standards guiding the principles of voter registration.

The voter registration process must be fair, comprehensive, credible, transparent, inclusive and relatively easy to access it.

It is crucial that Zec considers eligibility requirements that are broad to facilitate easy access by citizens to voter registration services.

In addition, the commission must minimise or must make sure that there is no systematic exclusion of any group including the vulnerable and marginalised populations.

Voters must be able to trust that registering to vote will not result in them being subjected to consequent discrimination, intimidation or violence.

Voter registration must give equal opportunities and full participation of the citizens in the electoral process.

Special measures are required to eliminate all barriers that might come up with the requirement of the proof of residence and enable all the eligible voters to register to vote.

Zec must make necessary provisions with real consequences to guard against abuse of the system.



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