Uganda’s electoral commission faulted over voters register

Saturday December 19 2015

The recently released voter’s register has been subjected to scrutiny after Norbert Mao, one of the candidates in the 2011 presidential elections, filed a lawsuit against the Electoral Commission for blocking him from contesting for the Gulu Municipality parliamentary seat.

The decision to go to court follows one by the EC’s tribunal that upheld the electoral body’s earlier position that because Mr Mao had not registered to vote he could not then be nominated to contest for a seat he has held twice before.

According to sources familiar with the matter, Mr Mao intends to file two lawsuits: One in the High Court to challenge the EC’s refusal to nominate him, and another in the Constitutional Court to challenge the legality of the new National Voters’ Register, which several legal experts have already called into question.

READ: Spotlight shines on a bungling electoral body

The circumstances surrounding the DP president general’s absence from the voters’ roll appear to have attracted curiosity by the final number of voters – 15,277,196 million — the EC recently declared to have on its register.

According to the electoral body, the bulk of this number was extracted from the data containing the particulars of registered and verified Ugandan citizens from the National Identification Register. The Ministry of Internal Affairs, which is responsible for it, says they captured approximately 16.5 million people aged 16 and above.


However, an observation exercise by the Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU) disputed the outcome of the process, given that it was beset by lack of a clear legal framework, which undermined its credibility, poorly trained staff, malfunctioning equipment and low public enthusiasm.

“CCEDU’s report found that 14,018,800 Ugandans aged 16 and above could have been enrolled if all factors held constant as targeted from the start to the end of the exercise. However, using functioning equipment as a measure of success of the mass enrolment exercise at 64.32 per cent, the above estimate reduces from 14,018,800 to 9,016,892 people,” said the December 18 brief.

While the bulk of the voter’s register was extracted from the identification register neither the ministry nor the EC has revealed exactly how many people on the former came from the latter.

This breakdown is crucial because not everyone who registered for the ID automatically qualified to be added to the voters’ register unless that person had expressly indicated so on the ID registration form.

Another breakdown that is crucial is how many of the people on the identification register were born before February 18, the date the EC eventually announced for voting, because only then would they qualify to vote. 

Some analysts have noted discrepancies in timelines in the two exercises — that is, ID verification and data extraction and display — which would further suggest that perhaps not everyone on the voter’s register qualifies to be on it.

Information from the EC indicates that display of extracted data of the “successfully verified” Ugandan citizens covered five weeks; from April 7 to May 11.

Yet by June 5, information from the Internal Affairs Ministry shows that issuance of IDs, which would have followed a thorough verification exercise, had rolled out to only 38 out of the 112 districts and only a total of 3.1 million citizens had received their cards.

The 15.3 million voters on the roll appear at odds with the national population figures. According to provisional results from the 2014 National Population and Housing Census (NPHC), Uganda’s population has been estimated at 34,856,813 million.

Whereas information on the age structure of this population has not yet been made available, the estimated number of people below 18 by mid-2015 was put at 19,874,000 million (or 56.7 per cent) basing on the 2011 Uganda Demographic and Health Survey (UDHS).

This figure is only 202,916 more than that contained in the 2013 Uganda National Household Survey (UNHS), which indicated the total number of Ugandans aged 18 and above to be 14,420,916 million people.

So, whether one considers NPHC statistics or those from the UNHS, the number on the EC’s register is in excess by 294,383 and 856,280 people respectively. 

“An estimated 70 per cent of the population is below 35 and half of these are estimated to be the population below the age of 15. How is it possible then that more than half the population are qualified to be on the voters’ register or above 18?” said the CCEDU.

The voters’ register has been criticised for its inconsistency since the 2001 elections, for containing “ghost” voters and for omitting eligible persons who duly registered.

Although the EC has been urged by both its national and foreign partners to reopen the register for scrutiny, its officials are adamant, saying the display exercise was completed successfully, it cannot be repeated.