The Electoral Commission (EC) has declined to re-open the registration of voters, a move that was envisaged to allow more people to qualify for voting in the 2021 general election.
EC Chairperson Justice Simon Byabakama says that the Commission is not able to re-open another round of registration for new voters considering the enormous and complex operational requirements for the conduct of the 2021 general elections.
The Electoral Commission closed the registration of voters in December 2019 and on February 19, 2020, started displaying the Voter’s register to allow registered voters to verify their records. The commission intends to hold elections between January 10 and February 8, 2021.
Last week, Members of Parliament questioned why the Electoral Body had chosen to close the registration of voters, a year before the general election closing out a number of people who will have attained the age of 18 from participating in political activities, either as voters or candidates.
A section of MPs objected to the closure of the registration exercise saying that the cut-off date should be at least two months to the nomination of candidates so that potential voters and candidates are not disenfranchised. They argued that there is no legal provision stopping the registration of voters in December.
But Leonard Mulekwah, the Director of Operations at the Electoral Commission told the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee of Parliament this afternoon that in order to achieve a clean up-to-date Voter Register by end of March 2020, the display of the registers and the general update of the registers should have been completed.
He added that the appointment of the cut-off of registration of voters and end of general update of the voter’s register had to be December 23, 2019, to allow for update returns to be captured and processed for production of the National Voters Register.
Mulekwah explained that the process of producing a final register ends with the processing of display returns in readiness for nomination of the Special Interest Groups- SIGs Committees elections then nominations for Local Governments, Parliamentary and Presidential elections.
However, Mwenge South MP Aston Kajara says that the Constitution requires an update of the voter’s register on a continuous basis.
Jinja Municipality East MP Paul Mwiru questioned why the Electoral Commission does not rely on data from that National Information and Registration Authority so that all those 18 and above can vote.
Kaberamaido County MP Veronica Elagu Bikyetero also expressed concern that a number of Ugandans might not be able to vote.
But, EC Chairperson Byabakama insisted that reopening of voter registration could not be possible since there are elections for Special Interest Groups scheduled as early as April 2020 and require a clean and ready Voter’s register.