Biometrics is a technology used to capture unique physical features such as fingerprints and/ or facial scans for the purposes of identification. Biological and behavioural characteristics are stored in a database and used for identification of voters on polling day.
Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) can be used to collect this unique data to identify voters and the software used can help eliminate duplicates or multiple registrations due to malpractice, fraud and human error. According to the Zimbabwe Election Support Network, BVR has a number of advantages. If implemented in accordance with the internationally accepted principles for voter registration such as inclusivity, transparency, accuracy, integrity, sustainability, comprehensiveness, and security of data, as the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) has pledged to do, BVR will result in a clean, comprehensive and credible voters’ roll with no duplicate names and will minimise multiple voting. It improves the quality of the Voter Register as it accurately captures voters’ data. It increases efficiency as less registration officials will be used. It enhances trust and confidence in the voters’ roll.
It has been slightly over a month since BVR started in the country and the turnout has not been pleasing in some areas like Bulawayo. Results from Zec show that Bulawayo is way down the pecking order, and we want to urge residents to seize the opportunity and avoid a last minute rush.
It should be made clear that those who would not have registered will not be allowed to vote in next year’s general elections as they will not appear on the new voters’ roll, thus it is important for all those eligible to register so that they are able to exercise their democratic right to choose their leaders.
For those in rural areas, there were reports that some people were having challenges in securing proof of residence documents, but last week, Zec said on its website; “The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has noted with concern that many aspiring Biometric Voter registrants are failing to produce acceptable proof of residence and yet there are numerous documents that can be used to prove the same. The Prospective registrant should bring original and a photocopy of title deed in their name or a farm offer letter or vehicle registration book or dip tank book or any other official document with their name and residential address. The photocopy will be filed by the Registration Officer while the document holder will remain with the original. The Commission is also urging registrants to prepare their affidavits well in advance before they present themselves for voter registration.”
For those in towns and cities, proof of residence can be in the form of any bill reflecting one’s place of residence, traditional leader’s confirmation letter, landlord’s statement, employer’s statement, offer letters and parents and friends’ letters confirming an individual’s proof of residence among other things. Those who cannot present relevant proof of residence documents, can submit a residence affidavit stating where they reside.
Zec chairperson Justice Rita Makarau is on record as saying voter registration is going to be continuous, but there will be a cut-off date for those who will participate in next year’s elections.
“But the blitz for the 2018 elections will start middle of October and it will run up to the date that the President has proclaimed for the purposes of us coming up with a new voters’ roll parallel to that and after the blitz, continuous voter registration will continue to run.
So, it’s starting now and it will run together with the blitz. It will continue after the blitz and it will continue as the law demands. The voters’ roll for the 2018 elections will close 12 days after nomination, but it will now be the continuous voter registration exercise, not the blitz.”
In addition, President Mugabe, who was the first to register, has repeatedly urged citizens to register to vote, and political and social leaders have a duty to mobilise masses to participate in this important exercise.