Zimbabwe 2018 National Elections
In previous years, Zimbabwe’s voter registration and national elections were conducted manually, using a paper-based system. The process was therefore left open to voter fraud, which cast doubt on the legitimacy of election results. In 2017, the ZEC awarded a contract to Laxton to provide a comprehensive solution to develop a biometric voters’ roll in anticipation of the upcoming 2018 elections.
Biometric voter registration would improve the efficiency of managing the voters’ roll and has proven to be more accurate and reliable. Once captured, the data can be extracted, analysed, and put through a de-duplication process. Any duplicated registrations or “ghost citizens” would be flagged and removed from the voters’ register.
Election Management Services from start to finish
Once the ZEC set their goals, Laxton deployed staff to Zimbabwe to provide in-country support over eight months. Highly experienced project managers, engineers, software developers and technicians were stationed at Laxton’s local operations office in Harare to provide technical and logistical support.
Laxton technical experts conducted in-depth training sessions to train 150 local technicians to set up the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) kits once they arrived in the country and to maintain the kits for as long as they were in use. The training included the provision of training manuals and videos to assist technicians with hardware and software support.
The technicians were selected from all over Zimbabwe to provide technical support wherever the BVR kits would be used. With the BVR kits having multiple usages, such as citizen identity registrations, technicians could use these skills long after the voter registration project concluded.
Using its global logistics network, Laxton also coordinated the delivery of all BVRs and their distribution to the various registration centres across the country. This included procuring and supplying consumables, such as stationery and labels, to use during the voter registration drive.
The Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) kit enabled operators, trained by Laxton, to capture the registrant’s fingerprints, scan supporting documents, take a high-quality image and print a voter registration receipt, all in a straightforward process. Image: UNDP
Identity enrolment and verification in all conditions
To facilitate the efficient registration of more than six million voters, Laxton manufactured 3,000 rugged, water-resistant, dust-resistant, anti-shock, drop-resistant, IP67, fully integrated Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) Kits, which included the following primary components, amongst others:
- An laptop on which the Laxton voter registration software and various other software tools are embedded
- A fingerprint scanner to capture ten fingerprints per voter
- A camera with embedded LED lights to capture a high-quality photograph of the voter’s face
- A document scanner function to scan supporting documents
- A label receipt printer to provide a receipt confirming registration and the polling station location
- A backup storage drive to ensure data could be recovered if the laptops were damaged or stolen
- A battery to operate the kit for 14 hours, as well as adapters to charge the kit via 220V AC, car charging ports, generators, and solar panels
- An advanced power management system to ensure optimal usage of power in rugged environments with inconsistent power
- Anti-shock inserts to protect components
The rugged, self-contained case housing the equipment, the compact size, and its light weight made it easy to transport to the field. Considering the distances to be travelled and the more remote locations, this hardware solution was fully mobile and able to operate with limited infrastructure. To store the extra equipment needed, Laxton also manufactured 3,000 rugged, water and dust-resistant backpacks to carry:
- An 80W solar panel to charge the BVR kit’s battery during the day
- Photograph backdrop and supporting stand
- 10m charging cables and various charging adapters
- Storage for consumables such as label receipt rolls
- 12,000 USB 32GB flash drives used for data transfer
- Essential tools, maintenance, and cleaning kits to help operators to keep equipment in good order
Laxton provided spare parts for all the hardware components supplied to allow for practical support and repairs of all items in the kits quickly and efficiently.
Customised, secure identity software
With the secure handling and storage of sensitive information a top priority, the complete Election Management Solution included the latest data security and encryption software. The software was designed to register voters pre-election, and verify them on election day.
Operators captured the voter’s fingerprints and information, scanned supporting documents, took their photographs, and printed their proof of registration receipts. Registration software installed on BVRs securely backed up and stored all the data.
Once exported to a central database created by Laxton’s team of experts, a de-duplication process was conducted, which identified incomplete data, identity theft and duplicate registrations. The software incorporates the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS), which detects identical fingerprints in the 5.6 million voters’ records.
AFIS identified persons registered multiple times in the same or at different polling locations. All records identified as duplicates had to undergo an adjudication process to determine what remained and what was deleted from the roll.
3,000 customised mobile Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) kits were supplied to the ZEC to conduct voter registration across Zimbabwe. With alternative power sources and all the necessary equipment on board, registrations could take place in even remote locations with limited infrastructure. Image: AFP
Voter enrolment in a few simple steps
The ZEC launched voter registration in October 2017 across the ten provinces in a four-phased Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) approach. They used print, online and broadcast media to create awareness around the process, provide registration locations and explain why it was important for prospective voters to be biometrically registered.
The easy-to-use kits and well-trained operators made the process much smoother and faster than in previous elections, cutting down on queues and creating a positive experience for the citizens. Registration stations situated even in the most remote locations meant that all eligible Zimbabwean citizens had a fair opportunity to register to vote.
The Laxton technical team and local technicians provided technical support throughout the registration phases, resolving any issues quickly and ensuring that registrations could continue with minimal disruption.
After completing the four formal BVR phases, 63 district election offices received “static” BVR kits for continuous voter registration until the end of May 2018. With a target of seven million, the completed voters’ roll had almost 6 million registered voters, a good result for the ZEC.
Election management project success
On the 30th of July 2018, Zimbabwe held its general elections to elect the President and members of both houses of Parliament. With just under 11,000 polling stations scattered across the country, more than 4,8 million voters cast their ballots in their places of residence.
The ZEC was more than satisfied with the end-to-end solution provided by the Laxton team. “Laxton showed professionalism, teamwork, unequivocal support for the project, and a positive attitude throughout,” the Commission stated.