Poll officials have asked Parliament to ensure changes to electoral laws do not cause a logistical nightmare.
Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) chiefs believe the recommendations by the Joint Parliamentary Select Committee on electoral reforms, if adopted, will help improve the electoral process, but there are bound to be challenges in interpretation and implementation. The commission said the proposal that voter registration, identification of voters and results transmission be conducted electronically will cause logistical havoc if passed in its current form.
But Commission Secretary Ezra Chiloba said whatever the eventuality, the proposals do not warrant any change to the election date, which the Constitution set as the second Tuesday of August every fifth year of the election cycle.
"What is required is to ensure the proposed legislative amendments are easier to implement in practical terms given the time limits," Mr Chiloba added. He said IEBC should be allowed to continue preparing for the 2017 General Election as long as the activities capture the spirit of the proposed reforms.
The commission argues that the proposed definition of 'biometric' will come into conflict with religious and cultural beliefs as it will require removal of some clothing to expose the head. "The definition is detailed to include facial, earlobe geometry and palm prints. It is possible that since registration is not compulsory, those finding the requirement repugnant will opt not to register. In return this will affect the comprehensiveness and inclusiveness of the register," IEBC Communications Manager Andrew Limo said.
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Mr Limo said there is need to fast-track the sourcing of an audit firm and incorporation of the findings thereafter, given that the audit of the voter register is expected to be complete by November 30, and the report presented to Parliament within 14 days.
The commission also wants the delineation of political party nominations clarified.
"It appears that there is hardly any time provided for the commission to certify candidates, say on qualifications. There is need for clarity with the sequence of activities and timelines leading to the General Election. The amendment bill strives to streamline party primaries and that is a welcome move," Limo said.
He said there is need for more clarity on time-lines for submission of symbols and names of independent candidates for purposes of nomination and verification of names to ensure they tally with the candidates' national identity cards.
IEBC said there had been numerous amendments to the law since 2012, adding that there was need to condense all electoral laws under one statute. The commission believes segmented electoral laws may not reflect the achievements made so far on the electoral reform agenda.
The 15,000 biometric voter registration kits are not enough to serve all 24,000 registration centres. And now IEBC wants a corresponding number of clerks deployed to registration centres during the entire voter register inspection period. And prisons will have to be gazetted as registration centres and polling stations and prisoners registered as voters.
But IEBC believes if a prisoner is transferred after registration, allowing them to vote will pose a great challenge with registration centres.