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  • Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles

  • Serious shortcomings on the voters' roll: Missing urban voters and young voters
    Zimbabwe Election Support Network
    July 12, 2013

    The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) has noted serious irregularities in the Voters’ Roll purchased by the organisation from the Office of Registrar General on 19 June, 2013. Through its preliminary analysis, ZESN has noted that the biggest irregularity in the Roll is the under registration of voters especially in the urban wards. For instance ZESN has found that there are about 750 000 missing urban voters and at least 400 000 missing young voters from the voters’ roll.

    ZESN conducted a demographic analysis of the Voters’ Roll on all 5,890,169 names on the voters’ roll from all 1,964 wards and 210 constituencies compared to the official 2012 Census data from the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency. The analysis by ZESN shows the under registration of eligible voters in urban wards with approximately 750,000 missing urban voters and under registration of youth voters in urban and rural wards with approximately 400,000 missing young voters. These youth voters are only 5% of registered voters compared to 20 % in the Zambian election held in 2011.

    The analysis also revealed a number of discrepancies between census data and registered voters across all age groups. For instance there are approximately 831,482 people in the age group 40-49 years. However it is worrying that the voters’ roll reflects 1,250,989 registered voters in this age group. Of particular concern is the age group 80 years or more which according to census data has an estimated population of 155,653, while the registered voters of the same group are 343,187, some of whom are as old as 114 years old. This over registration of elderly voters in urban and rural wards demonstrates that approximately 250,000 names of individuals who are likely to be deceased, whose names have not been removed from the voters’ roll.

    Table 1: Comparison of Registered Voters with Estimated Eligible Voters by Rural/Urban Wards
    Urban/Rural Registered Voters
    Voters Roll
    19 June 2013

    Voting age Population
    2012 Census Estimate
      Numerical Difference Per cent Registered
    Rural Wards 4,278,103 72.64% 4,279,336 64.33% 1,223 99.97%
    Urban Wards 1,612,066 27.36% 2,372,522 35.67% 760,456 67.94%
    Total 5,890,169   6,651,858   761,689  

    Table 2: Comparison of Youth Voter Registration between African Countries

    Country Year Age Range Per cent of Registered Voters
    South Africa[1] 2009 18 to 25 16.50%
    Zambia[2] 2011 18 to 24 20.61%
    Kenya[3] 2013 18 to 25 16.86%
    Zimbabwe 2013 18 to 25 4.51%

    The provision of electronic copies of the Voters’ Roll under the Amended Electoral Act is a commendable move as it provides greater transparency to the process. While periodic updates were provided by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) during the mobile voter registration exercise from 29 April to 19 May 2013, there have not been similar updates from the mobile voter registration efforts for the period 10 June to10 July 2013. Thus, it is not possible to assess the final state of voter registration. The official registration figures showed a total 5,890,169 registered voters, as at 19 June 2013. Using official census figures in Table 1 above, it is possible to estimate 88.55 % of eligible Zimbabweans are registered. However, the true registration rate is like lower because clearly names of deceased persons remain on the roll.

    ZESN notes with concern that as the current voters’ roll stands, urban and youth voters have not been given an equal opportunity to participate in the elections and if this issue is not addressed it might seriously undermine the credibility of the whole electoral process. ZESN found a significant disparity between registration rates in urban and rural wards with registration in urban wards at 67.94% and those in rural wards at 99.97%. For urban voter registration rates to be comparable with rural registration rates another 750,000 urban voters must still be registered.

    This situation would only have been exacerbated by the just ended mobile voter registration period because of the distribution of registration centres, with the majority located in rural areas which reinforces the inequitable access to voter registration already reflected on the voters’ roll.

    ZESN’s analysis, which is based on the 2012 Census shows that about 18.24 % of eligible voters are between 18 and 22 (those who became eligible since the 2008 elections) but just 2,39 % of registered voters are in this age group – one ninth of the desired number. Similarly, estimated eligible voters between 23 and 29 are 22, 97% according to the 2012 Census, but registered voters in this age group are just 11, 7% or half the desired number. At the same time, census data shows that 5.5 % - of estimated eligible voters are between the ages of 70 and 80 while 5.82% of registered voters are 80 years or older.

    The Network notes with concern that registration of young people in Zimbabwe is not only well below 2012 Census estimates it is significantly lower than registration rates in other African countries for recent elections. Registration of young voters (under 25) is more than 10% less in Zimbabwe than comparable countries such as South Africa (16.5%), Kenya (16.86%) and Zambia (20,61%). It is our view that for registration rates for youth voters to approximate the 2012 Census another 400,000 voters aged between 18 and 29 need to be registered.

    Finally, ZESN is also very concerned about the distribution of polling stations released on 10 July as compared to the official registration figures from 19 June. Twenty percent (75 of 394) of urban wards have more than 1,000 voters per polling. Of particular note, Epworth Local Board Ward 7 has 7,920 registered voters, but only one polling station. Unlike the Constitutional Referendum voters will be required to vote in the ward in which they are registered.

    ZESN therefore urges the ZEC to consider the extension of the mobile voter registration exercise to ensure the missing urban voters and young voter have an opportunity to exercise their right register to vote. This is in tandem with Section 6(3) of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution which provides for at least thirty days of special and intensive voter registration and voters’ roll inspection. In addition we call for the removal of about 250 000 people who are likely to be deceased from the voter’s roll.

    We reiterate our call for uploading the electronic copies of the final Voters Roll with updates of voters registered during the mobile registration from 10 June to 09 July 2013 on the ZEC website to enable citizens to continue to inspect and check their names.

    ZESN remains committed to promoting efforts for a free and fair election where each eligible voter has an opportunity to exercise their right to vote.

    Visit the ZESN fact sheet

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