ERC to conduct independent audit of the 2018 Final Voters’ Roll

Harare – 25 June 2018 – The Election Resource Centre (ERC), in collaboration with its partners, is conducting an independent audit of the “Final Voters’ Roll” that will be used for the 2018 Harmonised Elections. This follows release of the “Final Voters’ Roll” by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), on 15 June 2018, in a secure electronic format as required by the Electoral Act. As a result, the ERC and other election stakeholders, can conduct independent audits of the “Final Voters’ Roll.” This is an improvement from the 2013 Harmonized Elections where opposition political parties allegedly accessed the electronic copy of the roll on the eve of the election.

The intent of the audit is to provide independent information on the quality of the “Final Voters’ Roll” in terms of its accuracy (is the information correct), completeness (are communities under or over represented), and currency (is the information current).

Independent audits of the Voters’ Roll are especially important given the serious challenges from the 2013 Harmonised Elections. Analysis of the 2013 Preliminary Voters’ Roll indicated a clear pattern of over registration in rural areas, under registration in urban areas and under registration of young voters.

Independent audits of the Final Voters’ Roll are also critical in rebuilding public confidence in the electoral process. They seek to enhance the transparency, accountability, and inclusiveness of the registration process and to help ensure that eligible voters and only eligible voters are able to cast ballots on election day.

The 2018 “Final Voters’ Roll” electronic files contain information of 5,683,936 registrants. For each registrant, information is provided on his/her name, date of birth, gender, national ID number, address and polling station. This is the same type of information availed by ZEC at the 10 807 inspection centres. They do not contain the registration serial numbers for registrants – the information that unauthorised persons have been demanding from registered voters.

As with all election related information, ERC and partners take the security of the “Final Voters’ Roll” very seriously. This information is being maintained on secure computers and is only being used for purposes of an independent audit. None of the information included in the files can be used to determine for whom anyone voted on election day.

ERC will conduct computer tests of the 2018 “Final Voters’ Roll.” This involves both analysing the roll for internal consistency as well as comparing the “final roll” to the 2013 Preliminary Voters’ Roll (the only other Voters’ Roll ever provided by ZEC) and census data from Zimstats. ERC partners will conduct field tests that involve verifying the registration information from the 2018 “Final Voters’ Roll” with the actual people who registered to vote.

These complementary approaches, computer and field tests, will enable ERC and partners to identify broad trends as well as specific issues with the 2018 “Final Voters’ Roll,” including issues such as: registrants with inaccurate information, ineligible registrants, duplicate registrants, non-existent registrants, over registration and under registration. Particular attention will be given to the inclusion of women and youth in the 2018 “Final Voters’ Roll.” The audit will also offer recommendations on how to address any shortcomings identified.

While we acknowledge the limited time remaining between now and the election to effect changes based on findings of the ongoing analysis, we recommend that ZEC looks at possible open and transparent administrative processes that can address the findings of the audits and take remedial action to address any concerns raised or any recommendations offered. It remains critical for the public to be aware of the quality of the 2018 “Final Voters’ Roll.” Ultimately, it is the people of Zimbabwe who will decide if the 2018 elections meet their expectations. In assessing these elections, Zimbabweans should look at more than just the conduct of election day, but also the quality of the Final Voters’ Roll and associated electoral processes.

It is important to note that since the ZEC has not yet released either the 2018 Preliminary Voters’ Roll or the 2018 Exclusion List (meaning those individuals who were removed from the Preliminary Voters’ Roll for one reason or another), it is not possible to fully assess the quality of the 2018 “Final Voters’ Roll.” The High Court has ruled that the ZEC should release the 2018 Preliminary Voters’ Roll in electronic format.

ERC and partners urge ZEC to urgently comply with the court order and release not only the 2018 Preliminary Voters’ Roll, but also the 2018 Exclusion List in electronic format as has already been done for the 2018 “Final Voters’ Roll.”