By Nkanyiso Ncube
ZIMBABWE Election Support Network (ZESN) has called on the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to reinstate the special vote to enable electoral and security officials who will be on duty on election day to cast their votes in advance.
A special vote allows a registered voter, who can’t vote at their voting station on election day, to apply to vote on a predetermined day which is before election day.
ZEC has however announced that there wont be special voting for the 2018 general elections, a decision which will affect thousands of electoral officials and those in the security sector who are usually posted away from their areas.
In a statement, the election watchdog said it was regrettable that ZEC has not made efforts to ensure a segment of voters who will be on official business on election day are afforded a chance to exercise their voting rights.
“ZESN has continually called for the reinstatement of the Special vote in order to ensure that no eligible voters are disenfranchised from exercising their right to vote as provided for in Section 67 subsection (3)(a) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.
“ZESN believes that there is need to reconsider reinstating the special vote as it enables electoral officials and the security officials on duty on election day to vote in advance. Although ZESN is cognisant of the various logistical and management challenges that characterised the previous special vote, the Network believes that special vote was a positive development in ensuring the right to vote and secrecy of the ballot,” read part of the statement.
The election support network added that ZEC should draw lessons from neighbouring countries such as South Africa that allows special voting to persons with disabilities, pregnant voters, the media and any other voters who can prove that they are unable to get to the polling station on the day.
“It is imperative for the commission to draw lessons from the previous experience and other jurisdictions such as Botswana and South Africa. In South Africa the special vote is not only available to election officials and security personnel but also to persons with disabilities, pregnant voters, the media and any other voters who can prove that they are unable to get to the polling station on the day.
“ZESN calls upon the ZEC as the current chair of the Electoral Commissions’ Forum of Southern African whose primary mandate is to promote conditions conducive to credible and transparent elections in the SADC region to put in place mechanisms to ensure that members of the security sector and ZEC officials deployed for duty away from their wards are able to vote.
“Furthermore, ZEC should consider seeking for technical assistance from other commissions within the region who have successfully implemented special voting,” said ZESN.