In our push for the adoption of far-reaching electoral reforms that will ensure the holding of free and fair elections in 2018, the MDC advocates that no person should be entitled to vote unless his or her name appears on the voters’ roll.
The voters’ roll should close three(3) days before the nomination date and there is therefore no reason why the voters’ roll used for elections should not be fully accurate and up to date. This is particularly so given the fact that all voters will be registered at specific polling stations. If the voter has a registration certificate, and it seems that the voter has been erroneously omitted from the voters’ roll, there should be an expeditious mechanism which will allow the voter or the presiding officer to check with the electoral headquarters to ascertain whether there has been a mistaken omission of the name of the voter.
Voting by illiterate or physically handicapped voters should be carefully handled. There must be a provision that the presiding officer must satisfy himself or herself that a person wishing to vote with the assistance of another person has freely agreed to be assisted by the person concerned and no pressure has been applied on him or her to accept such assistance from the person who is to assist him or her.
A blind voter should be able to vote using a braille template or vote with the assistance of a trusted person without the presence of the presiding officer. If an illiterate voter so wishes, he or she should be allowed to vote without being assisted by another person. An illiterate voter should be able to vote without assistance by identifying the political party for whom he or she wishes to vote and by identifying the political party by its symbol and then placing his or her mark in the box provided for voting alongside the candidate or on the box containing the party symbol on the ballot paper or on any other box in the line which contains the box for the candidate of the political party concerned.
At each polling station, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) must provide enlarged copies of the ballot paper for use by visually impaired persons and braille voting templates for those who have no eyesight and wish to use such braille voting templates. ZEC must ensure that all polling stations are accessible to persons with physical disabilities. A presiding officer may not refuse to allow a person with an apparent mental disability to vote unless the voter has been declared to be mentally incompetent in terms of the Mental Health Act provided that a voter may be excluded from a polling station if the voter with an apparent mental disability behaves in a manner which endangers persons inside the polling station or disrupts the voting process.
ZEC must engage in an awareness campaign targeting visually impaired and illiterate voters to explain that they may either vote by being assisted by a person of their choice or by marking a ballot paper in the manner provided for in Section 59 of the Electoral Act. Section 107 of the Electoral Act deals with the issue of persons who may vote by post. Section 67(3) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe provides that every adult Zimbabwean citizen has the right to vote in all elections and Section 155(2) of the Constitution provides that the State is obliged to ensure that all eligible citizens are registered as voters and have an opportunity to vote.
The possibility of setting up a system of electronic voting should be explored but there would have to be tight safeguards to ensure that the system is not misused or distorted by hacking etc.
The following categories of people are eligible to vote by post or by electronic mail:
- (a) Persons on duty as a member of a disciplined force or as an electoral officer;
- (b) Persons in hospital and those at home who are too sick to be able to vote at a polling station on the polling day,
- (c) Doctors and nursing staff who will be carrying out nursing on the polling day
- (d) Fire brigade and other emergency and essential service personnel such as ambulance drivers who will be on duty on the polling day
- (e) Persons incarcerated in prisons
- (f) Persons on duty in the service of the Government outside Zimbabwe
- (g) Zimbabwean citizens who are registered voters and who are living, working or studying outside the country
- (h) Persons outside Zimbabwe as spouses of persons referred to in paragraph (f) and (g) and so unable to vote at a polling station in the constituency.
Commanders of disciplined forces must endeavour to allow as many of its force members to vote in person at polling stations in their constituencies on the ordinary polling day and restrict postal votes to security personnel genuinely needed for security duties on polling day. The disciplined forces should not require excessive numbers of personnel to have postal votes.
This applies particularly to the police force where in the July 31, 2013 harmonised elections, there were unnecessarily large numbers of police officers who required special votes.
To avoid intimidation by commanding officers of disciplined force personnel, wherever possible (such as at barracks) ,ZEC should administer the process and observers should be entitled to observe the process. For persons outside the country, the postal or electronic voting system should be a simpler system to administer than the expensive system of setting up polling stations in central places in foreign countries in which Zimbabweans are residing.
There would also need to be comprehensive safeguards to ensure that this system is not abused. Zimbabweans outside the country should be able to register as voters by post or by email. They would be registered in their place of birth or the place where they were last resident prior to their departure from Zimbabwe and they will then be registered at the appropriate polling station in the constituency.
It is apparent that there is still a very long way to go before ZEC can be able to administer a truly free and fair election in Zimbabwe. The MDC will continue to collaborate with other opposition political parties under the National Electoral Reform Agenda (NERA) to ensure that the election that will be held in 2018 will be free and fair and that the result of that election should pass the test of legitimacy.