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|Create Date||September 27, 2019|
The voters’ register or voters’ roll is the national database of registered voters used in an election. The quality of the voters’ roll is an important factor in public confidence in the integrity of elections. The voters’ roll used in Zimbabwe’s 2013 elections contained thousands of names of dead people and double registrants and was marred by under-registration of young voters.1 To address these problems the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) utilized biometric voter registration (BVR) technology to create a completely new voters’ register ahead of the 2018 Harmonized Elections. The BVR method, which digitized voters’ fingerprints, made it possible for the election authority to detect duplicate registrants and purge duplicates from the voters’ register. Digitization of fingerprints and photographs resulted in a BVR amounting to over 8 terabytes. The size of the database made the speed of the central server in running the de-duplication process a limiting factor. Server speed delayed the ZEC in making the version of the voters’ roll that would be used on election day available to the public in a searchable format, as required by Section 21(7) of the Electoral Act. The ZEC was not able to make a machine analyzable version available until June 18, and the ZEC did not release a revised final roll until just days before the election. The political parties’ ability to conduct robust verification of the voters’ roll was thereby limited.2 However, such delays will not be an issue in 2023, when the biometric voters’ roll will merely require routine updating, not wholesale replacementas in 2018. Routine updating of Zimbabwe’s voters’ roll is largely accomplished through continuous voter registration.
There is a second reason the quality of the voters’ register is important in Zimbabwe. According to the 2013 Constitution, the drawing of new electoral boundaries must take place “as soon as possible after a population census”, electoral districts should contain equal numbers of voters, and variations of voting populations should not exceed 20%.3 The voters’ register as continuously updated will be the key resource for confirming this constitutional distribution of voters across electoral districts.