Journalists have called on Parliamentarians to consider amending the Electoral Act to enable members of the Fourth Estate to do postal voting as they normally miss out while on national duty.
The petition by Bulawayo-based Lulu Brenda Harris and Mandla Tshuma was handed to the Speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda before being referred to the portfolio committee on justice, legal and parliamentary affairs.
It reads “The country’s laws only allow postal voting for members of the security services and other government employees (including their spouses) while turning a blind eye to media practitioners who during polls are deployed to cover elections outside their constituencies,” reads the petition.
In an interview, Harris said the discriminatory nature of electoral laws has resulted in journalists failing to exercise their democratic right to vote in previous elections.
“Currently the electoral law only allows postal voting for members of the security services, diplomats, and other government employees, including their spouses but excludes journalists, which we think discriminates against those who really want to vote but cannot due to the nature of their work.
“Voting is everyone’s right but on Election day, deployments to various places, outside our constituencies robs some journalists of their chance and right to vote. As you are aware, voting in Zimbabwe is polling station based where one can only vote in the place where they are registered,” said Harris.
“Therefore our request is a simple one, to have Section 73 of the Electoral Act amended and allow journalists, who will be on national duty covering the elections and electoral process an opportunity to also do postal voting.”
Harris added that journalists do qualify for that opportunity as the work they do is essential.
“As you know, the government also declared journalists as essential service providers whose role of providing the information is very necessary,” added Harris.
The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) is on record calling for the extension of postal voting and special voting to cover other persons who are eligible to vote but are not presently within the categories stated in the law.
“It is recommended that as a security measure, tamper-proof envelopes should be used in postal voting to prevent fraudulent activity. It is reasoned that just as the state has made special procedures for those who cannot be physically present on government business or because of duties on polling days it must also account for the voting rights of those who cannot be present for any other legitimate reason including but not limited to old age, physical incapacity or generally ill-health,” said ZESN.
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