The call for employment of technology in Zimbabwe for both voter registration and facilitation of the electoral process is not entirely new. Masvingo MP Tongai Matutu called for the introduction of biometrics, lodging a motion in parliament to this effect in 2010. The issue was raised again in March last year by Pishai Muchauraya who said though it had been discussed with Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa, nothing concrete had materialised. In April last year, Information Communication Technology minister Nelson Chamisa also called for the adoption of a digital biometric voters’ roll. I also brought up this issue in July last year in which I explored the basics behind biometrics technology. Most recently, calls led by Regional Integration minister Priscillah Misihairabwi-Mushonga to have online voters’ registration were rejected by the Registrar-General (RG) who contends that this does not provide adequate checks as required in Section 24 of the Electoral Act.
The voters’ roll is of paramount importance for the running of any democratic election, and as such needs to be kept accurate and up-to-date. To hold credible elections it is imperative to have a credible voter registration.
The quality of the voters’ roll is a crucial factor in determining the validity and legitimacy of election results and can be a deciding factor on the outcome of elections.
A bloated or inaccurate voters’ register always has a negative effect on the electoral process. The voter registration framework and processes must be designed to allow only eligible persons to register as voters.
Therefore the voters’ roll has a direct influence on the results of any poll, as only those on the roll are allowed to vote.
A deficient voters’ roll can disenfranchise those entitled to vote and an inflated roll with duplicate entries, “ghost voters” and names of people who have migrated, lends itself to electoral fraud, for example, through ballot stuffing and manipulation of numbers without raising an obvious alarm.
It can also affect the delimitation of constituencies by giving wrong indications of the population within each constituency — directly impacting on and influencing the election of MPs.
It is therefore vital that measures be put in place to ensure an accurate voters’ roll before conducting any elections in Zimbabwe. It can make or break the democratic process and therefore the embracing of any technology which can improve this process is important.