Voter Identification and the Electoral Lists
The Political Agreement of August 13, 2007 changed several aspects of how voters are registered.
Previously, the National Electoral Registration Commission (CNRE), created by the Ministry of Territorial Affairs was in charge of registering voters. However, the impartiality of this institution was questioned which then led to an extension of the CENI’s jurisdiction to include the compiling of electoral lists. Point I.2 of the Agreement and Article 2 of the 020 law governing the creation of the CENI gave it jurisdiction over all electoral operations.
Conditions required to vote
In Chad registration on the electoral list is a right and an obligation of all citizens who fulfill the conditions required by law. Article 3 of the Electoral Code states the required conditions to become a voter in Chad. They are related to nationality, age, and civil and political rights. Anyone who wishes to be registered must be a Chadian citizen, be at least 18 years old, and maintain the capacity to exercise his/her civil and political rights. In other words, those who cannot register to vote:
- have been convicted of a felony
- have been sentenced to imprisonment for two months or more, whether the sentence has been suspended or not, cumulatively with a fine, for the crimes of theft, swindle, breach of trust, embezzlement of public funds, forgery, corruption, trading in influence, or immoral misconduct
- have been prosecuted or sentenced in absentia
- have been sentenced with prohibitions and are not under guardianship
- have been bankrupted and insolvent and whose bankruptcy has been ruled by Chadian courts or by a foreign court in which the rulings are enforceable in Chad
- have been legally deprived of the exercise of their civil and political rights
Compilation of electoral lists
The Electoral Commission is in charge of compiling the electoral list. The CENI accomplishes this task with the help of clerks in charge of registration and the Permanent Electoral Bureau. Based on the general census of the population the number of voters is estimated and on this basis, clerks are recruited, trained, and deployed to conduct the registration of voters. To this end, authorities in charge of electoral administration rely on the support of traditional chiefs, whose contribution is highly valuable especially in remote rural areas. In order to prove their identity, voters must produce one of the following documents:
- a passport or national identity card
- a military identification booklet, or proof of a military or civilian pension
- a driver’s license
- a university student card or any other valid student card for the current academic year
- a civic tax ticket
- a birth certificate
Individuals who do not have one of the above-mentioned documents may be registered on the electoral list upon testimonies of two dignitaries who confirm their identity. Due to flaws in reporting dates of births, many Chadians do not have a national identity card or birth certificate. The testimonies of dignitaries and chiefs are thus indispensable and often the only way to certify that an individual belongs to the community. This recourse to the testimony of dignitaries is a practical solution, not without its own limitations. For example, the porous nature of Chad’s borders and the strong kinship linkages between various people who live across these borders makes it difficult to determine Chadian citizenship. All this confirms the belief that it is difficult to have credible electoral lists without a good system for recording people’s births, marriages, or deaths.
The beginning and ending of registrations periods are determined by a presidential decree approved in a cabinet meeting. Electoral lists are compiled for each constituency and consolidated in a general and permanent master list. It is the mandate of the Permanent Electoral Bureau to maintain and update this list. The master list can be consulted by political parties that wish to do so.
Updating electoral lists
In periods when elections are not scheduled, the Permanent Electoral Bureau is in charge of updating electoral lists. To accomplish this role, the Bureau receives the support of the Government through the use of various offices around the country. The dates during which the electoral lists are updated are determined by a presidential decree issued and approved during a cabinet meeting.
Beyond the period during which the lists are updated, some categories of individuals may still be registered on electoral lists:
- civil servants, government employees, and employees of private and state-owned companies, who are assigned to different positions or who have retired after the deadline of the regular period for updating the list; this privilege is also extended to family members who reside with these employees
- citizens returning to Chad after having lived abroad and registered with Chadian diplomatic and consular services
- nomads and people who migrate during certain seasons
- people who reach the voting age after the regular period of updating of the electoral list
Authorities in charge of producing electoral cards
It is the CENI’s mandate to produce electoral cards and its sub-committee in charge of the control and supervision of electoral operations is the body which actually issues the electoral cards. The CENI receives support from experts in the production of electoral lists and in computer science. The electoral cards are printed on paper that is difficult to forge, imported from Germany, with European Union funding. The packaging and distribution of electoral cards are conducted by the Permanent Electoral Bureau under the supervision of the Electoral Commission. Packages containing electoral cards are sent to the local chapters of the CENI so that they are dispatched to the final distribution centers.
The distribution centers are generally, the same as the registration centers. Each voter is invited to report to his/her polling station to receive his/her card. Normally, each card can only be obtained by the owner upon presentation of the document proving registration which is given to individuals the day they registered for the electoral list. But in reality, many violations have been noted and have seriously discredited the CENI.
The first irregularity noted by political parties is that blank cards are included into packages sent to the CENI’s local chapters, for distribution. The CENI reacted promptly to put an end to this practice, but it still produced a climate of suspicion.
A second irregularity was noted during the distribution of electoral cards. Given the late production of electoral cards, the distribution did not adhere to the prescribed deadlines and consequently, thousands of cards were delivered to the homes of traditional chiefs without any safeguards against the possibility of electoral fraud. Additionally, because the identity of voters was not systematically verified and electoral cards did not include a picture, many electoral cards ended up in hands other than their legal owner’s. This allowed for serious irregularities such as multiple votes cast by one individual.
Facing such anomalies, candidates for the presidential election sent a memorandum to the CENI demanding, among other things, the production of new electoral cards. The CENI declined, arguing that there was not enough time and failure to organize elections would result in a vacancy of the presidential office. Consequently, the main leaders of the opposition, Saleh Kebzabo, Wadal Abdelkader Kamougue, Yorongar Ngarlejy, decided to withdraw their candidacies from the election.
Debates and controversies over electoral lists
The issue of electoral lists has been at the heart of political debate in recent years. Since the 2006 presidential election, boycotted by some opponents, one of the demands of the opposition has been the introduction of a biometric system for registering voters in order to avoid multiple registrations and multiple votes by one individual.
The opposition’s demands were heard in the discussions that led to the political agreement of August 13, 2007. It was decided that the registration of voters would be modernized, with the introduction of a biometric system. This provision of the Agreement was translated into the Electoral Code.
However, due to the late start of the registration period and financial constraints, political leaders accepted the use of pervious voter registration methods. A study conducted by the CENI revealed that the cost of a biometric system to register voters would be close to 60 billion CFA (30 million $) and would take between 18 and 36 months to implement.
However, faced again with the recent irregularities during the registration of voters, the debate about the introduction of a biometric system has been rekindled. This will continue to be a major point of contention as the 2015 and 2016 elections approach.
Useful links and documentary resources
This post is also available in: Français (French)