THE Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) has called on the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) to extend the mobile voter registration exercise as the massive under-registration of urban and young voters will deprive these groups the opportunity of exercising their democratic rights.
Zesn’s findings come after it 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,” Zesn, adding that “these youth voters are only 5% of registered voters compared to 20 % in the Zambian election held in 2011.”
Failure to address this issue, according to Zesn, 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.
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.
Zesn noted that in 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.
Zesn also lamented Zec’s failure to provide updates of the mobile voter registration exercise for the period June 10 to July 10 saying the last updates were for the period from April 29 to May 19.
“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,” said Zesn, adding that “the true registration rate is likely lower because clearly names of deceased persons remain on the roll.”
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. – Zesn.