This is how you vote

The big day is finally upon us.

Tomorrow the nation votes to give birth to the Second Republic, which will lead the business of Government for the next five years.

Without both Mr Robert Mugabe and the late Mr Morgan Tsvangirai on the ballot paper for the first time since 2000, tomorrow’s polls are considered historic and defining for the country.

As such, the excitement within the electorate is palpable as an air of expectation and hope with a sprinkling of patriotic fervour feeds the national mood.

The leading horse for the poll is the incumbent President Mnangagwa, who is largely expected to defeat his other rivals with considerable ease.

On the other hand, the MDC Alliance, a marriage-of-sorts of fringe political parties, is hoping to cause an “unlikely upset”.

“But before anyone can celebrate any victory they must first cast the vote,” advises voluntary voter educator, Mr Johnstone Tsikira.

“And for them to do so, they should stick to set rules and regulations. It would be a pity for one to fail to cast their vote simply because they didn’t acquaint themselves with required procedures.”

Mr Tsikira says prospective voters run the risk of being turned away, disqualified or even being arrested should they fail to follow laid-down rules and regulations.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has released an easy-to-follow seven-step polling procedure.

The polling day kicks off at 7am and remains open until 7pm.

Only those who have registered will be eligible to vote.

As this election is polling station-based, it is imperative, therefore, that a voter has to be fully aware of their registration details.

The first of the seven steps upon arriving at a polling station is to present one’s national identification documents to ZEC officers. This can either be the metal or plastic national identity or a valid passport. A driver’s licence cannot be used as an identity document for voting purposes.

The polling stations have been distributed in such a manner that each station should serve a thousand voters at the most. The reasoning was to minimise queuing as much as possible.

Should there be any queues, preference will be given to the disabled, elderly and expecting mothers.

After identity check, fingers will be checked for indelible ink to establish if one has not already voted. Attempting to vote twice is a criminal offence.

The voter’s name will then be checked on the roll to confirm that one is a registered voter. The name will be crossed out.

The voter will then receive ballot papers which will be coloured differently for the President, National Assembly and councillor.

The left index finger will be marked with indelible ink. In the event of any disability, the next finger in order will be marked.

The marking is done to prevent double voting.

In the booth, the voter, using an “X”, marks the ballot paper for the preferred candidate.

Then the voters folds the ballot papers and place them in the corresponding coloured ballot boxes and then leave the polling station.

But outside of ZEC’s seven-step polling guidelines, there are other election day dos and don’ts that voters should be mindful of.

For example, voters who have nail polish or artificial nails on their left little finger will not be allowed to vote.

ZEC commissioner, Dr Qhubani Moyo confirmed the development last week and advised women to remove artificial nails and colouring on the day of voting to avoid being turned away.

“Yes it is true, what happens is that nail polish distorts the voting ink, therefore, come election day, nail polish and fake nails on the voting finger will not be allowed,” he said.

Wearing party regalia and chanting party slogans at polling stations is also not allowed and can lead to disqualification.

The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) reckons voter illiteracy is still high in the country and that there is need for continuous voter education.

“The high numbers of voters who fail to register, who do not vote, are turned away on election day, are assisted to vote or contribute to spoiled votes demonstrate the magnitude of the problem of voter illiteracy in the country,” says ZESN in a policy brief.

“This problem of voter illiteracy is largely a result of structural weaknesses in the regime of voter education by the Commission (ZEC).”

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