VOTER AND CIVIC EDUCATION
CHREAA was accredited by Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) to conduct voter and civic education during the 2009 general elections and 2014 tripartite elections in 28 Prisons in Malawi. The project goal was to ensure that prisoners had access to electoral information in order for them to make informed and independent decisions during elections. An oft-made observation is that during every election, civic and voter education provided to voters is usually inadequate. Despite their attempts to reach out to as many voters as possible, political parties and civil society organisations are mostly poorly funded to implement extensive civic and voter education campaigns. Hence, political parties and civic society organisations rationalise their budgets to target only large, significant constituencies with their civic and voter education messages. For most political parties, prisons represent a small but significant constituency which they can reach out to easily. However, despite that prisoners have the right to vote, the laws of Malawi do not allow political parties to campaign in prisons. This limits not only the distribution of their key campaign messages, but it also affects their attempts to guide inmates on how they can vote. It was because of such a void that the Centre for Human Rights Education Assistance and Advice (CHREAA) came in to act as the link between the political parties and the prisoners. Activities in 2009 CHREAA achieved this by mobilising and conducting awareness campaigns to all eligible prisoners to access information on electoral process, to sensitise prisoners on voting process and encourage them to vote. The Project was funded by different donors through United Nations Development Program (UNDP) In 2014 CHREAA reached out to 12,190 prisoners across the country with civic and voter education. CHREAA achieved this by providing the prisoners with 1,500 posters on voting procedures and sample ballot papers. The organisation also sourced and distributed 1,000 political parties’ manifestoes and provided inmates with names of all aspiring candidates (councillors, members of Parliament and presidents) in their respective areas. CHREAA recorded significant success in the project. In the 2014 elections, MEC recorded a voter turn-out of 70.7 percent. With about 9,000 prisoners voting in the elections, the inmates slightly beat the national average with 73.8 percent turn-out. Further, MEC, in its Civic and Voter Education Strategy, aspires to reduce the number of null and void votes against valid cast votes nationally to below 3.5 percent by 2017. The electoral body achieved its target in 2014 after only 2.54 percent of the votes cast were null and void. Prisoners, with a total of only 245 null and valid votes, shaded the national average after they recorded 0.9 percent of null and valid votes.