ZEC Should Consider Online Voter Registration – ERC

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By Anna Chibamu

IN light of Covid-19 pandemic toll on citizens, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has been urged to accept the virus as the new normal and provide citizens with alternative platforms.

This according to the Election Resource Centre gives the citizens the opportunity to exercise their constitutional rights and participate in electoral processes.

In a statement Tuesday, the local electoral lobby group, said there was need to consider the adoption of an online registration model for Zimbabwe to support the existing registration methods.

“Voter registration is a systematic process which determines the eligibility of citizens to vote in an election and in recent months ZEC, due to the outbreak of Covid-19 has suspended all electoral processes as the disease continues to ravage the country,” it said.

“In 2017, the ZEC adopted a form of electronic registration model named Biometric Voter Registration (BVR).

“Online registration allows an individual to register by using the internet, and this simplifies the registration process. Online voter registration systems supplement the traditional registration process and follow essentially the same process, but instead of filling out a paper application, the voter fills out a form via an internet site, and that form is submitted electronically to election officials for approval.”

The ERC noted a shift to online registration will overcome problems that have been caused with the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Online registration removes the need to physically present yourself at registration centres, and guarantees the protection of ZEC registration officials, who through conventional registration methods sometimes interact with over 100 people per day.

“In the long term, benefits of a change to online registration includes that globally registration has been deemed to be more accurate and easier to collate for election officials,” the ERC said.

It added online registration reaches an increasingly internet-savvy population, especially young Zimbabweans who have also become disenfranchised by current cumbersome electoral processes.

“In an environment where calls on accountability and transparency around voter registration and the voters’ roll are amplified as the country heads towards 2023, online registration makes updating registrations efficient, increasing election credibility and reducing Election Day problems.”

However, the ERC added: “Online registration may not help all sections of the society equally. When the time comes for crafting an online registration system, it is important to consider and mitigate its potential for exacerbating existing disparities in consideration of inequality in internet access; unequal economic opportunities; and other circumstances that may limit access to the online system.

“Globally, electronic and online registration systems have become commonplace, and can be implemented in a number of ways taking into consideration the specific needs of a particular country.”

The ERC further implored that all online registration systems ought to be as expansive and easily accessible.