The Local Government ministry has proposed changes to the Local Governments Act, one of which is to provide for only an electronic voter register.
If the Cabinet and Parliament okay the proposed amendment, the government would do away with hardcopies of the register.
According to Mr Swizin Kinga Mugyema, the Assistant Commissioner, Local Council Development, the new system would save Uganda Shs432 billion that the government has been spending on printing and publishing the register in the Gazette.
“The amendment that is being pushed is to, among others, address the issue of cutting down the cost of conduction elections across Uganda,” Mr Mugyema said on Wednesday, Kampala while presenting a paper on decentralisation to journalists.
“One of the reasons why [the LC I elections have] delayed is the cost; every time the Electoral Commission takes a budget to Parliament, Parliament would not approve the budget because it was thought to be high. So, we have made proposals to make it more cost–effective so we can conduct regular elections at that level.”
The proposal comes hardly two years before the next general election.
Mr Crispy Kaheru, the Projects Coordinator of the Citizens Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda, said much as it could save the country money, it should not be rushed.
“There is a craze to introduce technology in elections. However, it is not backed by evidence that it would improve the process. I would suggest that its application should first be assessed; it should not be passed in a hurry,” Mr Kaheru told the Daily Monitor during a telephone interview on July 23.
Dr. Christopher Twesigye, a political analyst, said the literacy levels would significantly affect the use of an electronic register in Uganda.
“Where the level of literacy is low, I do not see an electronic voters register working. They should tell us where it has worked. May be in the United States. But in the United Kingdom, which is the oldest democracy, they do not use electronic systems,” Dr. Twesigye told the Monitor on telephone on Wednesday.
Besides, Mr Kaheru said: “An electronic voters register poses a risk of easy manipulation, especially in rural areas. People might not know whether their names are on the list or not. It could limit accessibility and yet accessibility is needed to ensure transparency.”