Polling Station Voting Still Needs to be Legalised
Update on the Electoral Amendment Bill
By close of business on Friday 18th May, Parliament had not sent the Electoral Amendment Bill to the President for his assent and gazetting as an Act. It is, therefore, unlikely that it will be gazetted as an Act until next week.
Final Legal Step Needed for Polling Station Voting
Keen students of Zimbabwe’s electoral law will have noticed that – even taking account of the changes to be made by the soon-to-be-gazetted Electoral Amendment Act, 2018 – there are still some provisions in the Electoral Act referring to the former ward-based voting system. These provisions did not have to be changed in the recent Electoral Amendment Bill because:
- Appropriate amendments to the Electoral Act already exist [they were made by section 42(1) and (3) of the Electoral Amendment Act, 2012 (No. 3 of 2012), although they did not come into force then and are still not in force].
- Although these amendments are not yet in operation, ZEC has the power to bring the amendments into operation by gazetting a notice fixing a date of commencement for them when it “is satisfied that voters rolls for all polling station areas have been prepared” [Electoral Amendment Act, 2012 (No. 3 of 2012), section 42(2)].
Only on the date fixed by ZEC in a gazetted notice will the Electoral Act cater adequately for polling station area voting in this year’s harmonised election.
When should ZEC Trigger these 2012 Amendments?
ZEC should be able to say it is satisfied with the new voters rolls shortly after the end of the 11-day Provisional Voters Roll Inspection period which starts on 19th May and ends on 29th May. ZEC should gazette their commencement immediately after that.
Bear in mind there can be no new gazetting of electoral notices, regulations or laws after the President’s proclamation calling the election. This deadline is imposed by section 157(5) of the Constitution which states that “after an election has been called, no change to the Electoral Law has effect for the purpose of that election”.
The Change from Ward-based to Polling Station Voting
Zimbabwe has used a ward-based system of voting in its elections since the 2008 elections when the “harmonised elections” system was adopted [“harmonised elections” being elections in which a voter votes at the same time for a Presidential candidate, for a Parliamentary candidate for his/her constituency and for a local authority council candidate for his/her ward within that constituency.] Under the ward-based system every voter could choose to cast his/her vote at any polling station within his/her ward [but not at a polling station in any other ward in his/her constituency].
It was, however, decided in 2012 that it would be preferable to have polling station voting and polling station voters rolls. As there would be only one place at which a voter could cast a vote – at the particular polling station on whose voters roll the voter’s name appears – it was thought that this would reduce multiple voting.
Why the Change to Polling Station Voting was Delayed
When the idea of polling station voters rolls and polling station voting was accepted in 2012, it was as an aspiration, something to be achieved at an unknown date in the future.
Everyone knew that there was no way it could be implemented for the election due in 2013. At the same time, no-one could be certain when it would be possible to put the idea fully into practice countrywide, although it was hoped that things would be ready for the harmonised election due this year.
It was, therefore, decided to include the necessary amendments to the Electoral Act in Act No. 3 of 2012, but to delay their coming into operation until ZEC could complete the compilation of voters rolls suitable for polling station area voting.
That stage is now about to be reached.
The Forthcoming Elections will be Polling Station-based
Polling station areas were fixed by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission [ZEC] in 2017. There has been no delimitation exercise since before the 2008 elections, so the polling station areas were fitted into the existing constituency and ward areas and were based on projections of voting-age population based on the 2012 census.
But the amendments couldn’t be brought in then because new voters rolls were still to be compiled.
The Biometric Voter Registration exercise that followed, starting on 14th September 2017, was aimed at achieving an entirely new national voters roll made up several thousand polling station voters rolls. Each voter registration certificate names the holder’s polling station.
Many registered voters will have come to understand the new system during the registration process. ZEC’s voter education outreach – during the current Provisional Voters Roll Inspection exercise and during the run-up to voting in July/August – should ensure that all voters understand it.
Reminder: Inspection of Voters Roll from 19th to 29th May
You can check the roll by phoning *265# and following the instructions that come up. [Please note that the “SMS” before this number in the ZEC pamphlet is an error and should be disregarded.]
For more details on inspection of voters rolls see the ZEC pamphlet on Inspection of Voters Roll
Full Text of Electoral Act Updated So Far
The full text of section 42 of the Electoral Amendment Act, 2012 (No. 3 of 2012) is available in the Appendix (at pages 147 to 149) of Veritas’ Consolidated Electoral Act
Please note that this consolidation does not incorporate the amendments to be made by the Electoral Amendment Act, 2018. An updated consolidation will be posted on our website after that Act has been gazetted and is in force – and another update will be posted when ZEC brings the 2012 amendments into force.