It’s seven days before Rwandans head to their polling stations to choose who will lead them for the next seven years. While the candidates traverse all corners of the country canvassing for votes, there are things that every voter needs to know before Election Day. The New Times’ Nasra Bishumba sat down with the Executive Secretary of the National Electoral Commission (NEC), Charles Munyaneza, and asked him questions concerning Election Day. Below are the excerpts.
Where is my local polling station?
More than 96 per cent of the polling stations have not changed over the years. Your polling station is perhaps the same one it has always been.
If the voter has moved and they are yet to know where their new station is, they can use this month’s Umuganda (tomorrow) to find out because the activities that day will take place at polling stations.
Do I need a voter’s card to vote?
Yes and no. If you have a voter’s card, then congratulations; but not all is lost if you have none. You can use your National Identity Card (Indangamuntu) to cast your vote on condition that you are a registered voter.
Special cases like journalists and military personnel can use their professional cards to vote from anywhere due to the nature of their work, but again, only if they have national IDs and are registered voters.
What happens when I get to the polling station?
All you need is to present your national ID, voter’s card, and then a verification is done to determine whether you are on the list before you proceed to vote.
What if I make a mistake on my ballot, do I get another chance?
No. You have only one chance and that’s why we encourage people to take their time because we cannot get enough ballot papers to replace those that are spoilt.
When is a ballot considered spoilt?
There are different things that can make your vote null and void. For instance, if you decide to cast a blank ballot paper into the box, when you write other things on the paper other than the thumbprint, and if you vote for more than one candidate. All this can invalidate your vote.
What time are polling stations opening and when do they close?
Polling stations will be open at 7am and will close at 3pm.
If I can’t get to a polling station, can someone else vote for me?
Not at all. You must do this civic duty on your own.
I have disabilities, can I vote?
Yes, of course. As long as you are registered and we have put in place mechanisms that will support people with different disabilities. There is braille for the visually impaired and the stations are conducive for every voter.
Who is ineligible to vote?
You are not eligible to vote if you are below 18 years.
If you aren’t registered.
If you are not Rwandan.
If you are a refugee.
If you are in prison.
If you have been charged and convicted by the court of law and your voting rights have been revoked.
If you were convicted of Genocide against Tutsi crimes and you are yet to complete your punishment.
Can I discuss my vote in the polling station?
Not at all. That is why it is called a secret ballot.
I am a Muslim and I wear hijab, is there a particular dress code?
No. You can put on anything you want but we encourage you to be decent.
Are there any security checks?
Security checks can be done depending on the need.
Can I take a photograph of myself voting?
You are allowed to enter the booth with your phone but you are not allowed to take photos when in there. You are also not allowed to enter when someone else is there. You are not allowed to enter with a gun.
Who is allowed to stay at polling stations?
Registered observers and representatives of the candidates are allowed to be there but other people are encouraged to vote and perhaps come back later when the votes are being counted. And, of course, the polling officials.
How are the votes counted?
Counting is done immediately after 3pm and the exercise is carried out in public.
When can I find out the results?
On Election Day, we are going to announce at least 80 per cent of the votes cast. This means that people will go to bed knowing who has won but the final results will be announced a few days later.
If I have any more questions, who do I contact?
There are four election volunteers in every village and they can explain to you everything. If you are near any NEC office, you can walk in and inquire because we stationed in every district and province.