Home Columns Malawi Electoral Commission responds to issues regarding voter registration

Malawi Electoral Commission responds to issues regarding voter registration

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2019 voter registration to start soon

1.    I have seen vacancies for biometric voter registration kit operator and technicians. Does it mean now that MEC will now conduct its own biometric registration? What will these people be doing? Previously MEC said they would use the biometric data from NRB.

The arrangement since 2014 has been that the National Registration Bureau (NRB) would conduct civil registration first and then MEC would benefit from that data when carrying out voter registration. This has not changed and is what we are implementing now. MEC has advertised for biometric voter registration operators and technicians because we are preparing to start registration soon. A total of 1,499 biometric registration kits that were used by NRB have been made available to MEC to use in its registration process and that is why it was mentioned that those who worked will have added advantage. During voter registration, MEC will not collect biometric voter details like finger prints and photos. The National ID card will be scanned and all text data captured directly from the card. The biometric details will be extracted from the NRB database.

2.   Why will MEC conduct voter registration when NRB already conducted national registration using same centres which are used by MEC?

It is a requirement of the law that in preparation for election, MEC should conduct voter registration. Apart from that voting in Malawi is not compulsory, we need people to express their intention to vote by registering. This helps the Commission to know how many people will vote at a particular centre. This helps in logistical planning like how many staff to deploy, ballot papers to print, quantities of voting materials to provide. Also note that it is not everyone who has registered with NRB that will be eligible to vote. The NRB is registering anyone who is clocking 16 while voting is for those who are 18 years and above. It should be noted that NRB never conducted voter registration but national registration for citizens.

The Commission has also introduced new centres in an effort to make access to registration and polling stations easier for the public.

3.   What will happen if a registrant does not have the national ID card but is eligible to register as a voter?

MEC is aware that the registration of by NRB would not cover everyone 100 percent. There would still be people who for valid reason would have failed to register with NRB but would avail themselves to register as voters. There are two mechanisms that will help address such situation. The first is that MEC is encouraging all people that missed the mass registration by the NRB to take advantage of the continuous registration and register. They should keep safe the sticker that will be given because it will be needed during registration in the event that their national identity is not yet out but the voter registration exercise is taking place in their area. That sticker has a machine readable code which can be scanned during voter registration to capture the details of the registrant. Secondly we are engaging NRB that during voter registration, NRB teams will be placed in satellite centres within a constituency and registrants without national IDs will be referred to that centre to register first and then come for voter registration. By this arrangement we will be able to provide an opportunity to every eligible person to register as a voter to acquire a national ID.

4.   NRB has not distributed cards nationwide, some are not yet printed. How are you going to help these people?

The MEC is always in constant touch with the NRB and sharing notes on the progress of distributing the national IDs. Recommendable progress has been made. There are still isolated cases where some people are not showing up to collect their IDs. We encourage such people to go and collect their cards. But for those whose IDs are not yet out they should not despair, the strip they got while registering with NRB will be useful for MEC to register them as voters.

5.   There will always be people who lose their national IDs, how are you going to help them?

In the first place, MEC is encouraging all Malawians who have received their national IDs to keep them safely. For those who lose their national IDs they should immediately initiate a replacement process with NRB. Should they not complete this replacement by the time we start Voter Registration such people will be assisted through the NRB satellite centres before proceeding to the voter registration.

6.   Will MEC issue voter certificates or the national ID will be used on the polling day?

Upon registration, every voter will be issue with a self-sticking slip which will contain the text registration details like name, centre and sex. This will serve as the voter certificate and will be used for identification during voting. The design of the slip is different from the voter certificates issued in the past which used to have pictures apart from other details.

 7.   There is a proposal to use the national identity card as the only identification document, what would be the advantage of this?

This is just a proposal which MEC is supporting because it will make the register accurate and the registration much easier. It should be noted that registering for a national ID is mandatory by law. If all spaces and opportunities are provided for one to register as a citizen, there should be no excuse for one to avoid it. For this proposal to be implemented it will require amendment to the electoral law to put the national ID as the sole identification document to be used during voter registration. If the amendment does not pass, all the other documents mentioned in the law as acceptable identification documents will remain valid.

8.   What are the advantages of using the national ID and not all other documents as done before?

Using the national ID during voter registration will be very effective as it will be faster and less involving to register a voter. The process is eliminating paper stages where registration staff had to manually record details of a registrant. This will be done by just swiping the national ID on the registration machine. The result will be a credible voter register with accurate details. This has been a challenge with the paper-based system used in the past.

There have also been challenges with the identification system resulting in the Commission being boggled down with queries that ineligible people like the underage and foreigners were making it into the voters roll. With the use of the national ID all these impurities will be dealt with.

9.   There are Malawians living outside the country who world want to vote or contest in an elections.

The current electoral laws do not allow for Diaspora voter registration and voting. All Malawians outside the country should plan to come back home and register when registration commences.

10. With biometric voter registration does it mean that voting and vote counting will also be electronic?

MEC is only conducting biometric voter registration. The voting and counting process will remain the same. There are no plans at the moment to introduce electronic voting.

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