2021 ELECTIONS: WHY EC BOSS BYABAKAMA WANTS VOTERS TO TAKE UPDATED VOTERS’ REGISTER DISPLAY EXERCISE SERIOUSLY
By Mulengera Reporter
Uganda’s Electoral Commission (EC) officials have started the display of the National Voters’ Register and Registers for Special Interest Groups (SIGs) across the country’s 34,344 polling stations.
The exercise which started on February 19 will run until March 10, 2020. The registers for SIGs – Youths, Persons with Disability (PwDs), and Older Persons – will be displayed until February 28, 2020.
“The Registers for Special Interest Groups will be displayed for a shorter period because the elections for Older Persons, Youth and PWDs Committees will be conducted earlier than the others,” said EC Chairperson Justice Simon Byabakama.
Close to 18 million voters will have a chance to check in at their polling stations from 8am to 6pm every day, including on weekends, to verify the correctness of their particulars, and the placement of their photographs.
The exercise has started on the heels of a “robust” awareness and mobilization campaign that saw the EC conduct stakeholder workshops in each of the 12 electoral regions of Uganda. In these meetings, EC officials met district leaders and SIGs, among other groups.
The exercise will also give prospective voters a chance to “raise objections to the inclusion and/or removal of a voter’s particulars from the Register.”
Voters are also expected to use the exercise to weed out the dead, the underage, those who appear multiple times on the register as well as “those who reside or originate from a parish other than the one they are registered in.”
Youths are expected to verify their dates of birth, as a way of confirming that they are aged between 18 and 30.
The exercise is also aimed at helping PwDs confirm their particulars, principally the nature of their disabilities.
For their part, the elderly must be 60 years old by December 23, 2019, the time of cut-off of registration of voters.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN DURING REGISTER DISPLAY
According to Byabakama, officials will display lists of persons who were recommended for deletion from the register during the October 2019 verification exercise conducted at village level.
Those whose particulars are missing on the register yet they had applied to register as voters will also have an opportunity to present their case “and seek to be included on the Register.”
From March 11-20, 2020, the lists of names recommended for deletion shall be displayed at parish or ward headquarters for a period of 10 days before the EC can decide on erasing or retaining them.
Also, those who feel their names were wrongly recommended for erasure will have a chance to raise an objection to the Parish/Ward Tribunal which will have the final say on inclusion, deletion or correction of names as suggested by members of the general public residing in a particular polling area.
Members of this tribunal will be appointed by the area magistrate. It will consist of two elders, who must be aged 60 or above, a female and a male, as well as three other members whose appointment will be based on consultation with political parties and organisations participating in elections in a particular polling area.
It should be noted that whereas the exercise is intended to determine whether one votes or not, officials have been instructed not to conduct fresh registration of voters or transfer people to other polling stations.
This period also offers an opportunity for people who have changed their particulars, such as names and dates of birth, to notify the Electoral Commission in writing about the changes, and also present relevant supporting documents to display officers before “the changes are effected on the Voters’ Register.”
The other issue to be handled is proper location of polling stations, especially for voters who were affected by the exercise of re-organization of polling stations.
At the end of this exercise, said Byabakama, all returns will be retrieved from the field and recommendations effected by the Electoral Commission as the EC plans to publish the final Voters’ Register for the 2020/21 general elections.
Byabakama has promised that the exercise will be fair to all.
“The Display of Voters’ Registers shall be conducted with utmost impartiality and officials should allow any interested member of the public, including agents of political parties, to witness the exercise,” he said.