‘Voters’ roll must be accessed free of charge’

Source: ‘Voters’ roll must be accessed free of charge’ – DailyNews Live

Staff Writer      19 April 2017

HARARE – Limiting access to the voters’ roll by attaching exorbitant costs
to it suggests an attempt to conceal it from stakeholders, an election
watchdog has said.

Zimbabwe Election Commission (Zec) charges $100 000 to political parties
who want to have access to a copy of the voters’ roll.

Election Resource Centre, ERC director Tawanda Chimhi said: “If ZEC is
sincere about making future elections transparent and being accountable to
stakeholders, consideration should be given to making voters’ roll
accessible free of charge to stakeholders. It’s a cost that is necessary
if the credibility of our elections is at stake.

“Making the cost prohibitive limits access to the roll and ultimately
mitigates against the capacity of election stakeholders to hold election
authorities accountable. The principle must be able to make it as
accessible as is possible.”

Meanwhile, Chimhini said the electoral regulations as drafted and shared
by Zec for feedback by stakeholders is a welcome development coming as it
does on the backdrop of limited stakeholder engagement on the rules and
procedures laid down for elections in the past.

“That being said the draft regulations generally indicate a departure from
the past in some cases while glaring gaps have been noted in others.

“The ERC contends that regulations for voter registration must, among
other things, provide clarity on how voter registration will be
administered, limit discretionary powers to registration officials which
could be subject to bias, and make voter registration as accessible as
possible to all Zimbabweans eligible to vote.

“As we consider the drafted regulations and engage Zec on improving the
proposals, we note that regulations alone may not be adequate in enhancing
the conduct of our elections in the future.”

The ERC director said on one hand, the regulations must be informed by an
Electoral Act that fully complies with the Constitution while on the hand
they should be supported by comprehensive procedures which clearly define
the operational issues.

“Additionally, the regulations must be implemented by a transparently
recruited voter registration personnel who must be adequately trained and
have the capacity to discharge their duties professionally. Furthermore,
the regulations must be complemented by an electoral environment that is
conducive for the free participation of Zimbabweans in the voter
registration process.

“Contrary to assertions that Zec does not hold a brief on enforcing a free
environment for electoral processes, the Constitution suggests otherwise.”