Harmonise civic registration processes to fight voter apathy

Harmonisation of civic registration may be the answer in ensuring citizens simultaneously obtain identity documents (IDs) and register to vote, analysts have said.

This follows reports that many people failed to register to vote during the first and second phases of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) voter registration blitz due to lack of IDs.

According to ZEC, as at June 10, the country’s registered voters numbered 5 804 975, a 2% increase on 5 695 706 from 2018.

A recent survey says an estimated 445 852 in Bulawayo, Matabeleland South and North do not have birth certificates.

Zimbabwe Election Advocacy Trust (ZEAT) executive director Ignatius Sadziwa the issuance of IDs and voter registration programmes must be harmonised.

“Harmonization of civic registration is the only panacea to deal with voter apathy scourge. We are currently in the process of engaging Parliament so that the two exercises are merged. This is a modern trend which other democracies have adopted,” Sadziwa said.

Political analyst Vivid Gwede said this will go a long way towards incentivising voter registration and participation in electoral processes.

“Automatic or simultaneous voter registration upon issuance of national IDs would go a long way in encouraging people to participate in elections,” Gwede said.

“The same can be true for harmonization of the current separate processes as this can incentivise registration and participation. Stringent requirements for voter registration also impact on electoral participation.”

Analyst Effie Ncube weighed in saying harmonisation would make voter registration easier.

“The major challenge remains the fact that while at 16 years old a person can get an identity document, they do not qualify to register as a voter until they are 18 years old. So whatever system is introduced for harmonisation must take this into account,” Ncube added.

A recent report by the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) and the Election Resource Centre (ERC) revealed that lack of IDs and other necessary documents hindered several prospective voter registrants from registering to vote.

The ZESN and ERC in their report said it was imperative that ZEC carry out another voter registration exercise before elections expected next year.

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