The Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) has written Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) asking them to rectify anomalies experienced in the just-ended first phase of the voter’s roll verification exercise where names went missing and very few voters went to centres to verify their details.
The commission wrote MEC following a monitoring exercise they undertook of the just-ended verification process in parts of the Southern and Northern regions.
But MEC has said most of the issues raised in the letter from the commission were addressed as they were being noted during the first phase.
In its letter dated April 17 2014, MHRC told MEC that information gathered in the areas such as Blantyre Urban, Mwanza, Nsanje, Chikwawa found that only 30 percent of registered voters went to verify their details at centres.
The commission attributed the development to poor publicity and the sudden halting of the exercise in March, a day after it started.
“The commission views this as a worrisome trend which may have negative repercussions for people who vote in the May 20 Tripartite Elections in the event that people who have not verified are denied the chance to vote and thereby disenfranchising a large number of voters,” reads the letter signed by the MHRC chairperson Sophie Kalinde.
The commission asked MEC to ensure no voter is disenfranchised due to operational and system challenges experienced during the exercise.
MEC initially set the verification exercise to start March 24 to 28 before it was shifted to April 1 to 5, but was then moved to April 9 to 13.
The commission’s consultations with political parties found that five days was not enough time to inform registered voters.
The commission heard that most voters heard there was a verification exercise a day before closing.
MHRC said next time, MEC should ensure that critical electoral processes such as voter verification do not occur during the farming season.
The commission also noted anomalies in the voter’s roll which included missing voters’ names at centres where they registered, incorrect spellings of voters names and wrong dates of birth.
“At Nangutiche School in Matindi Ward, the number of registrants was 1 140 however the voters roll came with 1 041 names bringing out a deficit of 99 names. The names for some centres in one district were mixed up with names of centres in another district,” the letter continued.
In some centres, the commission noted wrongly spelt names of centres and birth dates such as Limbe Primary School where names such as Kanonji appeared as Kadnji, Chatonda appeared as Chatanda.
But MEC director of media and public relations Sangwani Mwafulirwa said failure of people to go for verification could not be attributed to low publicity.
“We have received the letter and the Commission is going to give a formal response to the MHRC. They are addressing issues encountered in phase one most of which have been addressed in phase two,” he said.
The commission has also introduced Short Message Service and web facility that is giving people an opportunity to verify their details.