Tuesday, July 10, 2018

250 000 ‘ghost voters’ on roll

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THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) has reportedly released a register of voters with over 250 000 ghost voters on its final biometric voters’ roll (BVR), NewsDay has established.
BY BLESSED MHLANGA
The alleged scam, according to the experts who have been analysing the data released by the poll management body, is feared to have involved the highly-discredited Registrar-General’s Office.
An independent team of BVR, electoral administration, human rights and data science experts who sifted through the roll claimed that they unearthed several discrepancies, indicating that over 250 000 ghost voters were on the roll.
The alleged shortcomings also expose a fatal failure by the AFIS software used by Zec for reduplication.
But Zec chairperson Priscilla Chigumba (pictured) yesterday dismissed the findings as “fictitious”.
“Several techniques were used to sift/dig through all the 5 683 936 records in the voters’ roll. The key goal being to establish the level of credibility that could be ascribed to the voters roll,” the BVR experts said in a report shown to NewsDay yesterday.
“One of the key concerns that have emerged is the existence of both double registrants and the high possibility of ghost voters in the roll. Both scenarios were, ordinarily, not expected given that the Electoral Commission used the most sophisticated BVR system to capture voters data. At the time of writing, the number of red-flagged entries basing on all techniques used stood at 250 000,” read part of the findings.
The high number of irregularities unearthed showed duplication of identity numbers with different names, or slight changes to spellings, similar ID numbers and in some instances, the same person registered at different polling stations in the same constituency.
According to the experts, given that the system used by Zec does not allow for duplication of identity numbers, the Registrar-General’s involvement could have been sought to deal with this issue alone.
“The next 6/7 digits are a unique serial digit generated for each registrant at the district ID registration centre.
These are then followed by a check letter which can be any of the 23 alphabetic letters, except for I O and U, based on the MOD23 calculation mechanism. The last part is simply the district code of one’s ethnic home, and is not at all used in the MOD23 checking mechanism, making it impervious to duplications,” the report read in part.
They added that the easiest to detect were individuals with the same credentials, different address, different polling station, but geographically close constituencies.
The report cited the case of one Chikondowa Varaidzo (07-143353-N07), who registered to vote at Mutare Junior School, Mutasa South in Manicaland, but also appeared as Chikondowa Varaidzo (07-143353-N07) registered to vote at Chirovakamwe A Primary School Dangamvura/Chikanga, Mutare, Manicaland.
“The above scenario is a serious threat to (the) electoral process because the elections shall be polling-station based, and any person registered on two different polling stations will be able to vote twice,” the report read.
In another scenario one Gondo Miria 04-036321-E21, (of) Madzivanyika Village, Masvingo, registered to vote at Chikuku Primary School, but also registered as Gondo Miria with a slightly different ID number at the end (04-036321-E04) to vote at Boora Primary School in Bikita, Masvingo.
“In both cases, what is important to note is that the deduplication process was never foolproof. Further, the fact that what had changed was the suffix, could potentially lead to the same person voting twice on the same or different polling station, given they have access to the two ID’s,” the experts said.
Chigumba, however, dismissed the existence of ghost voters on the final roll, saying there was an issue which affected at least 800 voters who have since been placed on an exclusion list and were no longer on the final voters’ roll.
“The number of people who have been placed on the exclusion list is a couple of hundreds, it’s 800 or 900, I can’t exactly say from the top of my head, without being accused of being dishonest next week. There are some people who have similar names.
“There are some people who have anomalies in their identity documents. We have referred those people to the Registrar General’s office because he (Tobaiwa Mudede) is the one who has the mandate of registering people,” she said.
Independent election watchdogs Zimbabwe Elections Support Network (Zesn) and Elections Resource Centre, said they were currently looking into the voters’ roll and would release their findings later this week.
“We are still doing our own audit and we will comment once its complete,” Zesn said.
MDC- T secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora said the anomalies would only end if an independent external auditor is hired to clean the voters roll.