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Electoral Reforms 3: Special and assisted voting
Youth Forum
November 30, 2012

There has been an array of reforms aimed at ensuring that all special / postal votes adhere to the democratic principle of secrecy in voting. In the past, most special votes could be influenced by one's occupation as these were done under the supervision of superiors in the case of disciplined forces.

Special voting is now to be done least 16 days in advance of ordinary elections at special voting stations and will be carried out for 2 days.

Special voting is now entitled to a) members of disciplined forces who will be performing security duties during the election outside their wards; and b) persons who will be electoral officers on the ordinary polling day or days outside their wards. They will need to apply for special voting 'to the Chief Elections Officer (in which event written proof of delivery shall be required) not later than noon on the fourteenth day after nomination day in the election.'

Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) will then run special voting stations as if they are ordinary polling stations and both voting and subsequent procedures to gather these votes and dispatch them to the relevant wards are subject to stringent safeguards and will be able to be observed by election agents and observers.

The procedures to be used ensure secrecy and are work on the following areas: sending of ballot papers to those eligible for special voting, marking of all envelopes used, and distribution of all postal votes as well as the subsequent counting of the votes. All the measures implemented seek to ensure that the votes are respected and there is no influence on the voters.

Assisted Voting

Illiterate voters and literate but incapacitated voters will be able to be assisted by a person of their own choice without the Presiding Officer being present, as was the case in the previous elections.

Visually impaired voters will be assisted by person of their own choice, but the Presiding Officer will still be present 'to ensure compliance with the voter's wishes'. This has sparked controversy with the visually impaired voters claiming this defeats the purpose of bringing in a 'trusted' assistant, as it allows the Presiding Officer to observe voter's choice, a situation that might result in the victimisation of the voters after elections.

With the new regulations, only one person can assist another person, no single person can assist more than one person to vote and also the person assisting must be an adult but does not necessarily need to be a registered voter.

If an illiterate or incapacitated voter does not bring an assistant, he / she will be assisted by two electoral officers and the police officer on duty to cast his / her vote.

Whilst these reforms are commendable, it is important to take seriously the grievances of the visually impaired voters, as this might result in their absconding the election day, fearing victimisation after Presiding Officers observe their candidates of choice.

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