Malawi Electoral Commission orients Judiciary on biometric voter registration

The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) has demonstrated to the judiciary the planned electronic biometric voter registration in which the electoral body will use information appearing on the just acquired national identity cards for voting in the May 2019 tripartite elections.

Ansah: Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC)  chairperson

MEC made the orientation in Zomba where the chief justice, supreme court of appeal and high court judges were in attendance.

The Commission has already demonstrated to the media, National Elections Consultative Forum (NECF), Centre for Multi-Party Democracy (CMD) and Members of Parliament (MPs) on how the registration will operate.

“Today we want to do it for you the members of the Judiciary considering the critical role that you play when there are electoral petitions,” reads part of the speech by MEC Chairperson, Justice Jane Ansah.

Malawi is expected to hold her second tripartite general elections in about 12  months’ time.

MEC says it echoes the majority of the people that the electronic biometric voter registration using the National ID will ensure a clean voters’ roll and would entail a reliable voters’ register for the incoming polls.

The voters’ roll, in the past elections, had numerous problems.

Some of the problems included voters having transposed photographs, misspelt names, sometimes not found at all at the centre they registered, multiple registrations and the commission in some cases was also inadvertently registering foreigners or the under-aged due to lack of proper identification system.

“With the electronic biometric voter registration, these problems will automatically be eliminated because the process will entail extracting the relevant information for voter registration from the existing database,” said Justice Ansah.

According to MEC, there is also a consensus observation that the process is faster and could lead to registering more people within a short time, thereby, people spending less time on the queue.

Accuracy was also observed since there will be no typing of details again. A scan will be enough to pick the relevant data.

“Therefore, we have accordingly approached the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs to amend the relevant provision in the law so that the National ID should be the only document for purposes of identifying eligible voters. We are hopeful that an amendment will be initiated soon,” added Ansah.

After conducting the first of its kind nationwide mass registration exercise last year which was feared to have left out numerous people, the National Registration Bureau (NRB) has resurfaced in many parts of the country to register more eligible Malawians.

Ansah appealed to all Malawians who did not register during the mass registration exercise to take advantage of the continuous registration being conducted by NRB in all the districts.

“In fact, we are engaging NRB to be in strategic places during the phases of the registration of voters we shall conduct so that those people still not registered have an opportunity to register and have a National ID,” she said.

In his remarks, Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda urged MEC to prepare for the new voter registration process well enough so that the usual problems are really dealt with.

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Biometric voting system is great especially for Malawi which is prone to vote cheating. However, tighten controls at the back end as this is where manipulation can occur. The government has succeeded in manipulation a robust government payment system; what more with this electoral electronic system.

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