Call for review of polling stations — An analysis

Building on the successful conduct of the recent constitutional referendum, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) encourages the Zimbabwe Election Commission (Zec) to go forward now with a review of the list of polling stations in advance of the 2013 general elections.

Opinion by the Zimbabwe Election Support Network

While Zec has not legally released the list of polling stations now, doing so would further enhance Zec’s credibility, increase transparency in the process and help Zec and other stakeholders to plan more effectively.

Critically, it would also provide sufficient time for voters to learn the locations of any new polling stations.

Based on an analysis of the list of polling stations used for the constitutional referendum and population data from the 2012 census, Zesn estimates that Zec should establish an additional 489 polling stations (227 in Harare) in order that all voters have a reasonable and equal opportunity to vote as enshrined in the newly adopted constitution.

Zesn chair Reverend Solmon Zwana said: “Zesn is encouraged by recent developments at Zec and we hope it moves forward expeditiously with a review of the polling stations so that there are sufficient polling stations for all voters to have a reasonable and equal opportunity to vote.”

Zesn’s analysis shows that because of new voters who have turned 18 since the 2008 elections as well as already eligible voters who have changed residence, there are 232 wards with an insufficient number of polling stations. This did not cause a problem during the constitutional referendum because citizens were permitted to vote at any polling station in the country.

However, for the general elections, voters will only be able to cast their ballots in the ward in which they are registered. This could lead to long queues and disenfranchisement.

For example, Epworth Local Board ward 7, according to the 2012 census, has a population of 39 031 people. Zesn estimates there are 22 638 eligible voters in the ward. However, during the referendum, there was only one polling station in that ward. It is not possible for 22 638 voters to cast their ballot at a single polling station.

While Zesn estimates Zec should create new polling stations in all the 10 provinces, 46% or 227 of the new polling stations should be established in Harare province (see Table 1).

At the provincial level, Zesn analysis does show a wide variation in the number of estimated eligible voters per polling station (see Table 2). However, this pattern is generally consistent with 2008 and typically predominantly rural provinces need more polling stations per eligible voter to minimise the distance voters must travel to reach a polling station.

Therefore Zesn’s analysis does not show the need for a full review of the list of polling stations by Zec, but only a relatively modest increase of approximately 5% of the total number of polling stations in just under 12% of the wards.

For the full report, including specific wards ZESN estimates require additional polling stations, see ZESN Analysis of Polling Stations from the 2013 Constitutional Referendum for the 2013 Harmonised Elections at www.zesn.org.zw or send comments to info@zesn.org.zw or zesn@africaonline.co.zw