The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) recently caught up with the Director of Elections, Professor Paul Isaak, to discuss the new general voter registration campaign.
Why should the ordinary Namibian citizen register to vote during this general voter registration period?
The General Registration of Voters (GRV), which runs from the 15th of January to the 2nd of March 2014, is a very important exercise for the country. As per the Electoral Act, all Namibian citizens have to be issued with new registration cards every ten years. This means that all eligible voters will need to register in order to receive new voters cards. Registering as a voter also enables you to exercise your fundamental right of voting and thereby choosing the leader(s) who must run the affairs of the state and government – at national, regional and local government level – on your behalf. By not registering as a voter, you are denying yourself the right to vote.
In the past the voters register has been criticised for containing errors such as double entries and the names of deceased people – what is the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) doing this time to make sure the register is as accurate as possible?
The ECN is introducing new biometric technology to capture registration data to enhance the accuracy of our voter registration, and ultimately to improve the integrity of our voters’ register. My office has been engaging the Ministry of Home Affairs, so that we won’t have the names of deceased people on the voters register. We will communicate with the Ministry on a regular basis to get an update on information of people who have turned 18 and to take off the names of those who are deceased.
How will the ECN ensure there are no double entries on the register this time?
The new biometric system will allow the ECN to find double entries through fingerprint identification. The biometric data captured will be uploaded every Sunday and transmitted to a central server. A a process whereby a fingerprint is matched against all other fingerprints on the central server will take place, double entries will thus be detected if there are any and will be discarded.
What will the ECN be doing to ensure foreigners cannot register to vote in Namibia?
It is a legal requirement that onlyNamibian citizens are eligible to be registered as voters. The ECN’s registration officials are under strict orders to adhere to this provision of the law by ensuring that all the applicants produce the required identification documents at all times. In the absence of the required documents, an applicant is required to bring along at least two registered voters to vouch for him/her under oath by virtue of sworn statements stating that he/she is indeed a Namibian citizen. On this score, the registration officials are under strict orders to warn persons who are giving sworn statements about the serious legal consequences of providing false statements under oath, which is regarded as perjury, which is a punishable offence under the law.
Can Namibians who are abroad register to vote?
Yes they can. Temporary registration points have been set up at all Namibian Foreign Missions abroad to ensure that all Namibian citizens temporarily outside Namibia are registered to vote as per the amendments made to the Electoral Act in 2009.
The general voter registration period lasts from January 15 to March 2. Will members of the public have a chance to review the register and when will the final voters register be published?
A provisional voters’ register will be displayed for review and objections as from the 03 to 15 April 2014. The final Voters’ Register is planned to be gazetted on the 27th of May 2014.
Will there be an opportunity for those who missed out during the general voter registration period or those who turn 18 later in the year to still register for the 2014 elections?
The ECN, just before every election always conducts what is called a supplementary registration of voters for people who have just turned 18 years, those who might have missed out on the GRV as well as citizens who might have lost their cards or who want to change their particulars because they have moved to new constituencies.
What is the key message the Electoral Commission of Namibia would like to convey to the public with regards to the general voter registration process?
I encourage all Namibian citizens to go and register to vote in order to take part in the forthcoming elections. Your vote has the capacity to make a difference. Take part in your country’s decisions by registering to vote.