Electoral watchdog, the Election Resource Centre (ERC) has warned that it will be fatal to proceed with the July 30 harmonised elections as the voters’ roll which is being used by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) has not been verified. The ERC said there is no evidence that Zec had addressed anomalies on the voters roll. In a statement, the ERC said,
The Election Resource Centre (ERC) conducted an analysis of the voters’ roll shared by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commissions (ZEC) on 18 June 2018. The analysis done by the ERC complements efforts of other partners in assessing the state of the voters’ rolls shared by ZEC ahead of the 30 July 2018 harmonised elections.
The ERC conducted a computer test on the voters’ roll shared by ZEC to check for currency, accuracy, consistency and completeness of the document. The computer test on the voters’ roll was premised on the 2012 census figures and projections drawn up by ZEC indicating the potential number of eligible voters, the June 2013 voters’ roll as shared by ZEC and the testing of all details on the 2018 voters’ roll against the Voter Registration Regulations and other relevant pieces of legislation.
In testing all details on the voters’ roll, the intention of the ERC was to give feedback to ZEC on state of the voters’ roll before finalization of the document for polling day
Same identity numbers used to register multiple times
The analysis of the voters’ roll by ERC points to same Identity Document (ID) numbers being used to register multiple times. This should technically not be possible if ZEC conducted a deduplication process based on the Automated Finger Print Identification System. The voters’ roll must not accept such entries which may suggest duplicate registrants, if the voters’ roll is to be accurate.
Same addresses used in registering voters in different wards
ZEC conducted a polling station mapping exercise to allocate voters to polling stations. It should therefore not be possible for the same address to appear in multiple wards. If for instance, the threshold of registered voters per polling station is to be exceeded, ZEC should have simply placed additional polling stations in the same ward than moving voters to different wards altogether. If voters’ addresses were necessary for voters to be allocated polling stations, this trend must not be possible and therefore questions the accuracy of the voters’ roll.
Same full name, same date of birth but different identity numbers
It is highly unlikely in Zimbabwe that voters can possess same full names and dates of birth with slightly different identity numbers. In the past, such entries have been disputed as potentially representing so called “ghost voters.” While the challenge with such entries may arise from a potentially flawed civil registry, the biometric voter registration system should have been able to flag these issues out before the release of the roll. Any potential duplicates such as the ones flagged out in all analysis done so far raise questions around the accuracy of the voters’ roll.
Same names with slightly different identity numbers registered using different addresses
This has been a contested matter in previous voters’ rolls as shared in the past. The pattern suggests some duplicity, unless otherwise clarified via the biometric voters’ roll through which facial recognition can be used to verify if these individuals are indeed different from each other. Of course, such a pattern could easily be rectified through a credible civil registry. Given the stage we are, a credible voters’ roll should be able to flag such entries until they are clarified as being authentic. Such entries, without being verified raise questions around the accuracy of the voters’ roll.
Addresses with phone numbers
The question of consistency of the voters’ roll is raised on the basis of some entries that have mobile numbers while others do not. Mobile numbers were collected by ZEC for purposes of communicating with individual voters. In outlining what should be provided for on the voters’ roll, there has never been any mention of mobile numbers. This absence of consistency is purely on ZEC who could have done a more thorough job in cleaning up the voters’ roll. The biometric voter registration system should also have been able to pick up such inconsistencies in the creation of a voters’ roll. The fact that the errors were not picked up raises questions about the voters’ roll and the processes leading up to the finalisation of the document.
Voting addresses that are unnamed
The absence of full addresses on some entries on the voters’ roll raises questions around accuracy and consistency of the voters’ roll as it relates to how ZEC was able to allocate such entries to polling stations. Given that polling stations are allocated on the basis of residency, ZEC would need to revisit such entries to enhance accuracy and to maintain consistency on the voters’ roll. Having some entries containing full details while others do not, naturally affects the credibility of the voters’ roll and it would be important for such inconsistencies to be addressed before the final voters’ roll is published. Again, this is a flaw that could be easily addressed if a more thorough job was conducted in cleaning up the voters’ roll.
Significance of Findings
A key question necessary to address in any form of analysis of a voters’ roll is the significance of the inadequacies found on the voters’ roll. While the ERC posits that every voters’ roll will have one form of inadequacy or another, the degree of tolerance on such inadequacies depends on the nature of the inadequacies themselves.
Given that our voters’ roll is supposed to be biometric, the accuracy of the voters’ roll should be improved compared to our previous voters’ rolls and some inadequacies ordinarily associated with a “manual” voters’ roll should not find their way onto a biometric voters’ roll.
The pattern of the inadequacies is also a factor in determining the significance of the inadequacies on the voters’ roll to the overall credibility of the election. Once a pattern is established, the inadequacy itself tends to raise suspicion that it could be deliberate and therefore can be used to manipulate the election process or even accommodate fraud at worst.
As such, all inadequacies found on the voters’ roll as shared by ZEC in June 2018 remain material until the final voters’ roll has been tested for currency, accuracy, completeness and consistency. ZEC should therefore take remedial action to address and explain each of the noted inadequacies with the seriousness deserved.
It is acknowledged that the voters’ roll shared by ZEC for analysis was not the final roll which will be used on polling day. This was confirmed by ZEC and the ERC takes comfort in the fact that the findings from the analysis conducted so far can be addressed before the finalization and possible publishing of the final voters’ roll.
The ERC further acknowledges that the analysis done so far have received varying interpretations in the media and among election stakeholders. For the avoidance of doubt, the ERC insists that the state of the preliminary voters’ roll is the sole mandate of the ZEC. Any issues found on the document in which ZEC has sole mandate to compile and maintain falls squarely on the door step of the Electoral Management Body. It is also the responsibility of ZEC to be fully accountable for any issues noted on a document that it should maintain.
Finally, in the absence of transparent and accountable effort that timely addresses the issues raised in the analysis done by the ERC and others on the “draft” voters’ roll shared by ZEC, it would be fatal to proceed to run an election on the basis of a final voters’ roll devoid of the necessary and verified corrections on issues raised.