Often when we hear about elections or voting, the discussion focuses on “Election Day”. However, an important part of the pre-voting process occurs before the actual election day – voter registration.
The requirement of registering to vote before being able to cast a ballot has been integral to how Zimbabwean democracy functions and provides both barriers and opportunities to voter participation.
Voter registration is a systematic process that determines the eligibility of citizens to vote in an election. It is generally agreed that voter registration serves three main purposes;
- to ensure that everyone eligible to vote can do so;
- prevent those not legally entitled to vote from voting;
- and to curb multiple voting by an individual.
The practice and procedure for voter registration is prescribed in section 17A of the Electoral Act.
A lack of voter education on registration has led to widespread political lethargy which ultimately results in low voter turnout, with by-elections since 2018 pulling an average voter turnout of 48%. This has the potential impact of undermining the trust in and legitimacy of democracies as democracies derive legitimacy from the participation of citizens.
Voter registration following the 2018 harmonised elections has been worryingly low, with 1 444 people registering in 2019 according to a ZEC 2019 Report, which is concerning considering the fact that since 2018 approximately 1 million youths became eligible to register to vote.
Why it is important to register to vote
An individual’s right to vote ties that person to our social order, even if that person chooses not to exercise that right. Voting represents the beginning; everything else in our democracy follows the right to vote. Participation is more than just a value. It is a foundational virtue of our democracy.
To make your voice heard on an issue or candidate; don’t let others decide for you. Substantive representation of youth: The assumption is that voting will affect the nature of representation and ultimately the content of public policy. If young people do not register to vote and participate in elections, their distinct interests are more likely to be ignored or neglected by policy-makers.
Every vote does count! Remember: there is power in numbers. When we vote and get our family members to vote, we can impact outcomes and change the debate. Zimbabwe’s youth represent over 60% of the population and about 44% of the total voters’ roll. Young people should vote to ensure high overall turnout.
Political integration strengthens democracy; political integration of the youth promotes public oversight, public order and democratic stability as long as young people are given a real voice, their vote is seen as meaningful and influential.
Don’t let others decide for you; if you don’t vote, you’re letting others decide who wins and what issues matter. Today’s non-voters benefit from government and social services (like access to health care, spending on education, income inequality or public safety).
Source: Election Resource Centre