ERC warns against rushed adoption of e-voting in Zim’s unstable electoral environment

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ELECTION Resource Centre (ERC) executive director Tawanda Chimhini says government should not be tempted to rush the adoption of e-voting within an electoral environment full of citizen mistrusts on how authorities run national polls.

This comes after the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ERC) is in the process of identifying firms that could be considered for the roll-out of an electronic voting system.

Government says the technology could be used in the country’s 2023 to allow disenfranchised Zimbabweans based abroad to cast their votes.

However, poll-based NGO, ERC insists the introduction of the technology into the country’s controversial poll management systems must be “well thought out” given the apparent failures of the biometric voter registration system used in preparing for the just ended elections.

“The introduction of information, communication technology in electoral process should be a well thought out and carefully considered position if such adoption is meant to improve the quality and credibility of elections,” Chimhini said.

The introduction of bvr starting was an ostensible attempt to get rid of the old voters’ roll which was fraught with so-called ghost voters and was the subject of fierce contestation among the country’s political protagonists in previous elections.

Said Chimhini, “It is now no secret that the new roll developed on the basis of new technology did little to enhance stakeholder confidence in the final product which, to date, has still not been fully availed to election stakeholders.”

The ERC boss said government and in particular, ZEC should first build public confidence in the country’s poll processes before embarking on another giant experiment capable of plunging an already fragile process into chaos.

“The introduction of new technology in elections must therefore be accompanied by evidenced and sincere efforts aimed at building public and stakeholder confidence in elections and election authorities alike.

“The downside of introducing new technology in elections where confidence in the election management is low is that such confidence could be further eroded,” Chimhini said.
Zimbabwe’s past elections have been disputed by the opposition with the latest election July this year spilling into the Constitutional Court.

ZEC is being accused of manipulating poll figures in President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s favour. The Zanu PF leader scrapped through with a narrow 50,8 percent of the national vote against his close challenger Nelson Chamisa of MDC Alliance who polled 44,3 percent.

The July election also saw army deployments to quell opposition protests in Harare with six civilians gunned down in a widely condemned state reaction to public disturbances.

Against this background, the ERC insists the introduction of new technology in elections must be aimed at addressing challenges faced in delivering a credible, free and fair elections.

Chimhini said some of the challenges confronting Zimbabwean polls were not a result of limitations in technology and could not be addressed through the introduction of e-voting.

“From observer reports prepared after the 2018 elections, the major challenges faced in our elections related to limited transparency and accountability in the conduct of ZEC, an unfair playing field for contestants, biased conduct of traditional leaders, biased reporting by the state media among other issues,” he said.

The ERC insisted that any changes to how elections were administered should “be sensitive to observations and recommendations of accredited observers.”

Namibia is the only African country that has adopted e-voting.