Legislators have failed to convince the Electoral Commission to re-open voter registration to include persons turning 18 before the general election next year.
A meeting called by the House Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs involving the Minister of Justice, Ephraim Kamuntu, EC, Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) and the National Identification Registration Agency (NIRA) to find a solution ended in stalemate on Thursday 19 March 2020.
The meeting was convened following a Tuesday statement by Kamuntu to Parliament in which he ruled out the re-opening the exercise.
About 976,600 Ugandans will turn 18 by December 2020, according to UBOS.
During today’s meeting members advised the EC to take advantage of the ban on political activities by President Museveni due to the COVID-19 pandemic, to extend the December 23 deadline, closer to the election dates.
They argued that since the Minister’s decision to maintain the deadline was attributed to the nomination of special interest group representatives slated for 6 April 2020 has been affected by the ban, the EC should reconsider extending the deadline.
Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda (FDC, Kira Municipality) said that the EC should conduct continuous voter register update as done in the previous elections.
“EC should continue picking information of citizens from NIRA and stop registration of voters two months to the election date,” he said.
Abdu Katuntu (FDC, Bugweri County) warned of continued disenfranchisement, if the EC does not re-adjust the deadline, saying that in its current form, there will be no Ugandan aged 18 who will register to vote.
“If the deadline is a year to elections, it means that it is only those who turn 19 who register because by the time someone turns 18 years, the register is closed. We shall keep denying many Ugandans their right to vote,” he said.
Jovah Kamateeka (NRM, Mitooma District) called on the EC to find a reasonable deadline, which will allow all eligible voters to register.
“Why still insist on a deadline yet many Ugandans are being disenfranchised,” she said.
Minister Kamuntu said that whilst the 6 April 2020 deadline for nomination of special interest groups representatives will change, the update of the voter’s register will not be re-opened because of several factors, including the administrative costs involved in the electoral process.
“The higher the number of administrative units, the higher the volume of electoral materials required to be ready, which require more time for meticulous production, packing and delivery. This must be done when the National Voters’ Register to be used at all levels of elections is ready,” he said.
EC Chairperson, Justice Simon Byabakama, said that revising the voters’ register update closer to election dates will affect the display of the voters’ register.
“You are not going to have a register that you have not displayed. This will lead to nullification of an election,” he said.
Committee Chairperson, Hon. Jacobs Oboth said he would report to the House that the Committee met but failed to agree on a position.
Do you have a story in your community or an opinion to share with us: Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org