THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has provided some publications with basic voter and polling station procedure for election day, but not all aspects can be covered. First time and repeat prospective voters are urged to take the time familiarise themselves with Section 51 of the Electoral Act and refrain from over reliance on rumours and hand me down information, which will most likely be tilted towards any agenda.
Where are polling stations found?
They are set up at convenient places within constituencies which are readily accessible to the public. One’s polling station was notified at the voter registration. The number and location of polling stations spacing is determined by Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), using the data they have on constituency populations, density and other useful pointers. Zec has a duty to ensure there are enough polling stations for the population in a constituency. Voting is now strictly ward based and polling stations were set at the biometric voter registration stage. The polling station stated would have been the nearest in proximity to the given residential address and unless the voter applied to change it, it is the only station they can vote at.
Can there be objections to establishment of polling stations?
Details of all the polling stations were published in the pubic media. Political parties were empowered to lodge concerns or objections pertaining the location of any polling station and make suggestions and recommendations to the constituency elections officer.
What about disabled persons access?
Section 1(a) compels Zec to locate all polling stations at readily accessible places to cater for people with disabilities. Buildings with staircases or steps or elevated platforms where wheelchair ramps are not provided cannot be polling stations. Reports should be lodged if this is the case.
Are there any prohibited locations?
It is prohibited to site polling stations at premises owned by political parties or candidates, police stations, military barracks, cantonment areas or any other place where police officers or members of the defence forces are permanently stationed. This is to eliminate the possibility of actual or potential intimidation, although police officers will be on duty at all polling stations to maintain law and order as required.
What about other independent places?
Bars, hotels, or any other such places registered under the Liqour Act cannot be polling stations, as well as places in which inferences or actual possibilities may be drawn that voting confidentiality and safety may be compromised cannot be polling stations. Examples include the side of a busy road or noisy pedestrian thoroughfare, where safety and practicality and integrity can be breached.
What are the opening hours for voting?
Polling stations are typically open at 7am to 7pm for twelve hours. However, there may be just cause to depart from these times, but should meet at least the prescribed 12 hours. The constituency elections officer is mandated to extend the opening time if there are still prospective voters still in the queue until all of them have cast their vote.
How do we ascertain that the ballot box will be empty?
The elections presiding officer has to show proof that the ballot box is empty before polling begins to the accredited observers, electoral offices, candidates and other authorised people present. The presiding officer has to show that the ballot box has not been stuffed with ballots prior to the official voting to allay rigging fears.
What if some voters are given more ballot papers than allowed?
Before commencement of polling, the presiding officer is supposed to count and record the total number of ballot papers received at the polling station in the presence of the officials, candidates and other authorised persons and observers present. This will be used to verify the total number of ballots cast and the total number of voters who voted at that particular polling station. Furthermore, the ballot papers each have a unique serial number, with a matching counterfoil from which they are detached and audited against. The different elections agents from various parties and independent candidates participate in the verification processes and sign off when they are satisfied with the procedures. These measures are in place to eliminate or allay fears of rigging, because the number of ballots cast should tally with the numbers of voters.
What proof of identification should I take?
A passport or national identity card. It helps to carry the voter registration slip, although this is not a strict requirement.
Can I take photographs in the polling booth?
Section 25 of the Electoral Regulations stipulates prohibition of taking of photographs within a polling-station or while polling is in progress for oneself or other person, except with the permission of the constituency elections officer.
What about if I make a mistake on my ballot?
Voters are urged to be careful as mistakes such as tearing the paper or putting marks elsewhere other than the allowed places result in spoilt ballots and will not be counted.
If a voter makes a mistake they are allowed to return the spoilt ballot while they are still inside the voting booth. The spoilt ballot is returned and a new one issued at the discretion of the presiding officer after satisfaction of the genuineness of the error.
What is assisted voting?
Illiterate or handicapped persons may request assistance in the polling booth. They can nominate anyone of their choice such as a friend or relative. If they do not come with anyone the presiding officer can assist them, but only in the presence of two other electoral officers or Zec officials and a police officer of duty. The detailed procedures of assisted voters are described in Section 58 and should be adhered to.