Voting is an electoral process that should be given protection in democracies that function well. Protection guaranteed to voting should focus on ensuring fundamental citizenship and voter responsibility (Reynolds, et al, 2005). Voter registration ensures that citizens have a role to participate during elections and choose leaders and governments of their choice.
As stated by Reynolds, et.al, (2005) voters should be accurately registered to vote as a step geared towards protecting their rights. In most nations, electoral procedures comprises of complex interdependent processes. These processes aims to define boundary delimitation, initiate voter and civic education programs, voter registration process, registration of political parties, nomination of party candidates, period of campaigns, polling centers operations, vote counting, procedures of solving electoral disputes, and official announcing of election results (Richie, 2007).
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Electoral process should include voter education to make voters understand the requirements and their rights (Richie, 2007). Voter education campaigns enable all eligible voters to understand the existing political system and the contest in which they have a role to decide upon. In a democratic society, voters should understand their rights and responsibilities in an election process and possess sufficient knowledge and be adequately informed to cast ballots which are legally valid to participate meaningfully during elections. Voter education campaigns have numerous benefits. For instance in post conflict nations where the political atmosphere may be unstable and where elections may have adverse consequences.
Voter education campaigns should be used to motivate votes to be registered legally. Voter registration refers to the dissemination of electoral information, materials and programs to make voters aware on the requirements of the voting process for a given election period (Richie, 2007). It involves providing vital information to those eligible to vote, where to register and how electoral officials check the voter list. This assists in the confirmation that the voters are fully involved in the elections process and the type of elections to be held (Richie, 2007). Voter education campaigns should enlighten voters by providing information on where, when, and how to vote. Voters will be able to identify their respective candidates when they have access to sufficient voter education, furthermore; they will be able to file complaints in case of any irregularity in the electoral process (Association of European Elections, 2009). According to Association of European Elections (2009), voter education is extremely significant because it improves the participation of both men and women in elections, especially in post-conflict nations where women have been not playing an active role in the electoral process, therefore, voter education should be provided to all citizens irrespective of gender. The nature of information provided during voter education campaigns should be gender sensitive and made relevant to all to enhance the participation of women during elections, thus, voter education campaigns are an essential tool in disseminating positive images of women as legally identified voters, hence, should participate in all aspects of the electoral process.
Voter education campaigns produce beneficial results especially in post-conflict societies in transition. This provides an opportunity to pass information to citizens on gender issues and the need to include women and men in all aspects of the political process. Voter registration seems to be technical to most nations hence some individuals may assume the importance of this vital part in an electoral process (Association of European Elections, 2009).
Voter registration enforces universal suffrage provide citizens who are eligible to vote to exercise their rights by doing so. Voter registration serves the principle that every eligible voter is accorded the opportunity to cast his or her ballot paper only once. The right to vote is part of the universal human rights which took place in the middle of the 20th century and is currently under practice (Richie, 2007). According to United Nations Organization, the will of the voters is to have a government of their choice. The choice is done by voters during elections that take place after a given period under secret balloting or by free voting procedures (Association of European Elections, 2009). The right to vote is an integral part of human rights that should be protected by all democratic states, therefore, regulations on voter registration should meet all the constitutional requirements together with the human rights. Voter registration should be regulated. The most vital requirement is to make these instruments public and transparent; in addition, every voter should be able to access this process to have a chance to participate during elections. Constitutional principles governing voter registration include the separation of powers, rights equality, non-discrimination, and an effective legal action (Chandler and Grofman, 1994).
Voter registration is a process that acts as a proof that a voter has a right to participate in the electoral process. Voter registration is beneficial as it protects the principle of universal suffrage (Chandler and Grofman, 1994). Universal suffrage means that there can be no onerous implications to the process of voter registration for any citizen with only such rightful and legal requirements like age or nationality. The rationale is to maximize citizen participation in the electoral process. The principle of universal suffrage has a meaning that each voter is supposed to vote once, it can be achieved during the process of voter registration and the elections day (Richie, 2007).
Voter registration assists electoral officials in updating the voter register. this process is necessary to ensure that voting is done once in the ballot box to avoid voting irregularities. This process is possible during Election Day by a committee in charge and after elections through the processing of voting data. In countries where voting is a compulsory activity, voter register has a significant role to play by controlling the rate of attendance (Chandler and Grofman, 1994). This process also plays a crucial role in specific voting circumstances particularly in states that allow voting for voters who are in foreign countries. Voter registration provides an opportunity to those who have registered to vote but are in hospitals. Patients can have an opportunity to participate during elections.
Internally displaced people and nomadic communities can easily vote. In most countries, the role of nominating candidates i.e. entirely a responsibility of the voters because they have a role of supporting party candidates through the voter register with their signature (Association of European Elections, 2009).
Voter registration informs voters about the election dates and various stations they registered to cast their ballots by sending notices to registered voters. These notices serve a purpose to convince the voters of being in voter register. Voters' Cards are issued to those who have undergone the process of voter registration so that they can be identified within their respective polling stations. In some countries such as Denmark and Sweden, voters cards are used to identified voters who participate in the voting outside their respective polling centers. Voter registration also assists in determining the total number of voters who are eligible to vote which is a valuable data for most electoral procedures. Thus, main goal of voter registration is to avail electoral process information to all voters in all constituencies. Voter education campaigns should achieve the standards of universal coverage of the electoral process. An effective voter education campaign should reach out to the mainstream voters and the marginalize groups. An effective voter registration should consider factors such as illiteracy levels of registered voters and differences in ethnic groups. Voter education campaigns should mainly target the marginalize groups and voters are participating in the electoral process for the first time. Most importantly it should aim at encouraging voters to participate in the electoral process (Association of European Elections, 2009).
Voter education campaigns should target both men and women to make emphasis that suffrage is universal and to motivate women to participate in voting. In most countries, women have been given special attention towards education campaigns. These campaigns have significantly improved the participation of women during voter registration. Through voter registration, women get the right to vote as men do. A well planned voter education can help in alleviating the problem of double discrimination. Double discrimination may happen to women who are members of the marginal or disadvantaged, ethnic groups. The information that targets women on the importance of voter registration should also target men.
Voter education ensures political equality and inclusive through a properly conducted voter registration. Voter registers ensure support to democratic principles through enhancing equality to every citizen by promoting the inclusion of eligible voters in the electoral process (Association of European Elections, 2009). In most counties, differences have been experienced over the efforts by election officials to register voters that historically have indicated lower turnout in voter registration such as the marginal groups, the poor, the elderly, and the youth. Thus, voter registration process should be democratic and representative to provide an equal opportunity for all voters to participate in an all inclusive environment. Therefore, voter education campaigns should seek to enlighten citizens on the critical importance of their involvement in voter registration exercise. An effective voter education campaign should be conducted early enough and continue throughout the electoral process. This enables voters to be well informed about voter registration process so that they have ample time to prepare to register. During voter education campaigns, voters are informed where to check their respective voter register and confirm whether they are correct. A nationally recognized body responsible for managing elections is solely responsible for the voter education campaigns, in addition, other organs such as media, political parties as well as non-governmental organizations also plays crucial roles in voter education campaigns. Ways of carrying out the exercise of voter education are diverse, for instance, an active approach should be used to educate voters, and some election bodies have limited their activities to ensure that voters access the information through direct mailings and posters. Other ways include road shows, songs, role playing, and internet campaigns. Voter education campaigns play significant roles in ensuring that voters obtain vital information needed in order to participate wisely during elections (Association of European Elections, 2009). Community based organizations such as women and youth groups can be used to develop materials to educate voters. Women and youth are able to resonate well with them. The materials that are used during voter education campaigns should pass vetting requirements by a nationally identified elections body to identify its accuracy. In addition, the voter education materials should also be checked to ensure that they are gender sensitive.
In order to ensure efficient voter education and registration, it is recommended that the responsible government actors to develop and disseminate an all inclusive voter education programs earlier before election process. The voter education programs should continue throughout the electoral process when the materials used are designed to be politically accurate and neutral.
They should ensure sufficient provision of resources so that the education campaign programs reach out to the mainstream voters especially women. Voter education campaigns should be used to disseminate information to voters to avoid family voting considered as a fraud. Government actors should review all the materials for voter education campaigns. Vetting materials ensures that there are no gender biases by developing gender sensitization programs for the staff responsible for voter education programs. The involvement of international actors in voter education campaigns should support gender equality in voter education and registration process. There role should enable women to fully participate in the design of voter education and dissemination. International actors should make emphasis in support of voter education campaigns that disseminates information on the benefits of democracy, reconciliation and peace building, as well as, gender equality. In addition, they should provide financial support for voter education programs that are aimed at improving women participation in the electoral process. Furthermore, the civil society actors should put in place gender sensitive voter registration that promotes the capacity of women.
In conclusion, voter registration and education campaigns are vital because they make citizens have a role to play in government affairs. The most fundamental form of voter participation is through a free and fair election that can be achieved through a comprehensive and all inclusive electoral register. Voter registration process should be supported by existing legislations that provide an operational framework for the electoral system. Voter education campaigns provide an effective voter participation which may help registered voters to understand the voting procedures and the implications of each vote on the electoral outcome (Chandler and Grofman, 1994).