Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) has said the national identity (ID) cards will not be used for voting in the 2019 general elections.
The clarification is coming against a background of media reports that Malawians will vote using national IDs being issued by the National Registrations Bureau (NRB) in the 2019 elections instead of the voter registration cards normally issued by MEC.
In a statement issued on Friday, MEC said that it will still be required to conduct its own voter registration to come up with the voters’ roll which helps in planning for logistics like number of ballot papers for each polling station.
“Voting is not compulsory in Malawi and people will have to express their intention to vote by registering with MEC and at a centre where they wish to cast their vote. Stakeholders should also be aware that NRB will register everyone from 16 years but MEC will only be interested in those who will have attained the voting age of 18 by the polling day.
“During voter registration to be conducted by MEC, registrants will be required to bring their National IDs issued by the NRB for identification. MEC registration staff will register the person for that centre and copy the National ID details so that they can be used to extrapolate the biometric details from the NRB database to build the voters roll,” reads part of the statement signed by MEC chief elections officer Willie Kalonga.
The statement also said that as per practice, registered voters who lose their voter certificates will be allowed to vote if their names are found in the voters roll but in the event that a holder of a national ID is not found in the voters roll, they will not be allowed to vote because it means they are not registered as a voter.
While NRB intends to conduct nationwide civic registration, MEC is working with the bureau in its plans to conduct a biometric voter registration ahead of 2019 elections. According to MEC, its collaboration with NRB will reduce the volume of work and cost that would have been incurred if the commission was to conduct the whole biometric voter registration process on its own.
Migration from Optical Mark Registration to Biometric Voter Registration is one of the electoral reforms proposed by the Electoral Reforms Task Force which was formed in order to achieve the reform agenda in the country.