The Election Resource Centre (ERC) and the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) are observing the voter registration blitz by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC).
In their joint statement on observer deployment, ERC and ZESN deployed volunteers in every constituency who will provide weekly reports on the political environment. Part of the statement read:
In order to gather factual and verifiable information on the conduct of the 2022 voter registration blitz, ERC and ZESN deployed one volunteer per constituency who will observe periodically throughout the entire voter registration process and provide weekly reports on the political environment.
These individuals were carefully recruited from local communities following a strict criterion and adhering to gender balance.
These observers underwent a thorough training program on the conduct of the voter registration process, direction on what to observe, and when to report during the voter registration period.
Additionally, while at the training observers signed a code of conduct acknowledging that they were non-partisan.
ZESN and ERC will release periodic reports on the inclusivity, transparency and accountability of the voter registration blitz.
Timeline of Voter Registration Blitz
In late October 2021, the ZEC initially announced that it planned to conduct a voter registration blitz beginning in early December.
The ZEC later detailed that the voter registration blitz would occur simultaneously across all 210 constituencies in two phases, with the first beginning on the 6th of December 2021 concluding on 20 December 2021 and the second phase starting on 28 December 2021 concluding on the 1st of February 2022.
Approximately two weeks prior to the scheduled start of Phase 1 the ZEC postponed the entire voter registration blitz to early February 2022.
The reason the ZEC gave for the delay was to provide additional time for Zimbabweans to obtain national ID cards which is a key requirement for one to register.
The ZEC did not provide the new dates of the voter registration blitz until the 13th of January 2022 and it was at this time when the ZEC announced that the voter registration blitz was to begin on 1 February- 28 February 2022 with the second phase starting 11 April- 30 April 2022.
The lack of sufficient notice and uncertainty of the timeline creates confusion amongst individuals who wish to register or update their registration details.
This also makes it difficult for other stakeholders, including political parties, civil society and observers to adequately prepare to engage in the process.
Issues with Accreditation
While ERC and ZESN appreciate the accreditation extended to their observers by the ZEC, there were a number of administrative challenges that affected the timely deployment of ERC and ZESN’s observers.
In past processes, ZEC conducted accreditation at all the provincial centres. However, ZEC without advanced notification only accredited observers in two provincial centres, Bulawayo and Harare, requiring last minute changes to ERC and ZESN’s training plans, since the observers from all provinces had to travel to either of the centres, this had significant financial implications.
Further, the Accreditation Committee did not meet as announced in advance of Phase 1 of the voter registration blitz.
Instead, the Committee only met on Monday 31st of January 2022 with accreditation at the Harare Accreditation Centre starting on the 1st of February and accreditation at the Bulawayo Accreditation Centre starting on the 3rd of February 2022 (Phase 1 started 1st February).
As a result of the administrative decisions, it was not possible for ERC and ZESN to deploy observers in the first week of Phase 1 of the voter registration blitz as planned. These administrative challenges undermined the civic society oversight of the blitz.
Initial Analysis of the Distribution Voter Registration Centres
On 25 January 2022, the ZEC released a List of Voter Registration Centres for Phase 1 of the Voter Registration Blitz.
As part of its overall observation effort of the voter registration blitz, ERC and ZESN analysed the distribution of voter registration centres.
For the voter registration process to be inclusive it must afford all eligible individuals relatively equal access to register for the first time or update their registration details.
The distribution of voter registration centres can have a profound impact on access to the process and hence its inclusiveness and credibility.
In practice, this means there should be relatively more registration centres in rural areas than urban areas due to lower population densities.
At the same time, registration centres in urban areas, being more densely populated, should generally be open for more days than those in rural areas.
Further, the distribution of voter registration centres should take into account geographic variations in the voting age population (VAP).
While the current blitz is an update of the existing voters list, and only unregistered individuals or those needing to update their details need to register, VAP is still a good indicator of relative demand for voter registration.
In general, areas with relatively higher VAP should have more total days of voter registration than areas with relatively lower VAP for individuals to have equal access to the process.
In practice, while urban areas should have a higher VAP per registration centre, the VAP per day of voter registration should be relatively uniform across the country.
Overall, for Phase 1 of the voter registration blitz, ERC and ZESN’s analysis shows
1. The list is missing registration centres for four constituencies Mutoko East, Mutoko South and Uzumba (in Mashonaland East) as well as Chirumanzu (Midlands).
2. There are more registration centres in rural areas reflecting lower population densities (2,132 vs 582 registration centres).
3. Urban registration centres are scheduled to be open more days than rural ones (2.7 vs 2.1 days) reflecting higher population density.
4. However, urban registration centres are open for an insufficient number of days compared to rural registration centres to provide individuals in urban areas an equal opportunity to register to vote. The VAP per day for urban areas is 1,571 compared to 942 for rural areas. This means that urban centres will have to process 70% more individuals than rural centres to have comparable registration rates.
5. There are 14 constituencies with high VAP per day (over 2,000) that require additional days of voter registration to provide individuals with an equal opportunity to register.