EC moves to extend voter registration exercise
EC, Government moves to extend voter registration exercise. File Photo

Electoral Commission (EC), Government consider extending the voter registration exercise

As 2021 Uganda General Elections draws closer, the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs together with the Electoral Commission (EC) are considering to extend the registration exercise to include new voters who have just turned 18 years of age.

This follows an intervention between the Chairperson Electoral Commission, Justice Simon Byabakama and the Parliament’s Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee yesterday on Thursday 20th, February 2020.

The Committee demanded an explanation from Justice Byabakama on why EC cannot include Ugandans who turned 18 years after the closure of the registration exercise on December 11th, Dec 2020.

Justice Byabakama was accused by the legislators sitting on the committee of intentionally franchising about one million Ugandans who have turned 18 this year, the legal voting age disregarding the Constitution’s provisions.

Article 59 of the Constitution provides that every Ugandan citizen of 18 years of age or above has a right to vote and that it is his or her duty to register as a voter for public elections and referenda.

Early this week, EC launched display of National Voter’s register consisting of 17,782,594 voters who will participate in the 2021 ballot.

However, legislators argue that if at all EC fails to include the people who have just turned 18 years after concluding registration on December 11; they will have violated their right to vote.

“These one million votes can swing the outcome of an election. To me this is a serious matter, “Abdul Kantuntu, legislator Bugweri said.

“The cut-off point day is applied under Section 18A of the Electoral Commission Act. This implies that there must be a voter’s register after nominations. That cut-off point should be reasonable enough not to franchise a section of voters,” Wilfred Nuwagaba, legislator Ndorwa Eas

EC moves to extend voter registration exercise
EC, Government moves to extend voter registration exercise. File Photo

Responding to legislators arguments, Justice Byabakama informed the committee chaired by Jacob Oboth Oboth, legislator Budama South that although every Ugandan who turns 18 years have a right to vote, EC has a cutoff date, to allow them to prepare, compile a credible voters’ register and budget for election materials in time.

“A credible national voter’s register is a cornerstone of a tree and fair election. Section 18A of the Act provides that the Commission shall transmit an electronic copy of the voter’s register immediately after nominations,” Justice Byabakama said.

“If you have continuous registration exercise, which registers will the Commission issued to the candidates after nominations? Justice Byabakama added.

EC roadmap shows that presidential and parliamentary elections will be held between January, 11 and February 9, 2021.

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However, the two parties agreed that it has been long overdue for the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs to make regulations governing the registration of voters to functionalize Section 51 of the Electoral Commission Act.

The Section provides that the minister may, in consultation with the Commission, by statutory instrument, make regulations for the effective performance of the Commission’s functions under this Act and, in particular, for the registration of voters and the conduct of public elections.

William Byaruhanga, the Attorney General conceded to MPs arguments noting that the ministry will conduct consultations with EC to come up with a harmonized report on the matter.

“We have agreed to go and look at that Section in terms of 18 years and above, and the resources. Then we shall come up with a reasonable time for cut-off,” Byaruhanga said.

Following Byaruhanga’s remarks the chairperson of the committee, Oboth Oboth directed EC and government to go sit and come up with a conclusive report regarding the matter and brief the Parliament next week on Tuesday.