Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Voter trafficking to be prohibited

The political genius of voter trafficking is finally being outlawed. Additionally, the fine on voters whose objections fail will increase by 400 percent and a fee shall be paid for making copies of the voters roll.

During the current meeting of parliament, the Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, Daniel Kwelagobe, will present amendments to the Electoral Act, one of which is a proposal to prohibit voter trafficking.

In the bill’s memorandum, Kwelagobe expresses the hope that this legislation would ‘ensure confidence in the integrity of the electoral system and its processes.’

The prohibition of voter trafficking comes in the form of an additional clause to the Electoral Act provisions that deal with transfer of registration: “For the avoidance of doubt, no person shall make an application for the transfer of his registration under this section after a vacancy has occurred in the constituency or polling district in which the polling station to which he wishes to transfer is situated.”

Transferring registration in the manner the government now wants to outlaw has helped many a political candidate win elections. However, the practice is problematic as it uses numerical strength of non-resident voters to impose leadership in a polling district and also produces an outcome that does not reflect the winner’s real level of support.

The proposed amendments do not deal with the other form of voter trafficking that occurs during general registration when some people register to vote in constituencies they do not stay in. Proving this sort of trafficking is made difficult by the fact that it would be impossible to verify voter-supplied information on the voters roll.
Under present law, voter rolls are available for inspection by members of the public at no cost. At no cost, people can also make copies of the roll or take extracts from it. The amendment bill proposes payment of a fee, to be prescribed by the Secretary of the Independent Electoral Commission for doing the latter.

People whose names are included on a roll may object to the inclusion of any other name on the same roll relating to the constituency they are registered to vote. The objection is lodged with the principal registration officer who would pass the matter on to the magistrate. If the objection is thrown out, the magistrate orders the complainant to pay the person the objection relates to compensatory damages of P100. The law is being amended to make the figure P500. It is further proposed that in cases where the objector fails to appear for a hearing, the magistrate may order the former to pay costs to the other party.

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