ElectionsVoting Activities & Procedures

Voting Day

Voting day refers to a day when voters elect a President, Members of Parliament, Mayors/Council Chairperson and Councilors. It also refers to a day when a By-election is held.

Requirements to vote

  • Green National Registration Card
  • Voters Card

Where to vote from

A person can only vote at a polling station which is written on his/her voter’s card.A polling station is a place where voters go to cast their vote during an election.

Secrecy in voting

Every person’s vote is secret and only he/she will know whom he/she has voted for.

Certificate of Authority to Vote

  • This is a document that is issued by a Returning Officer to a person who is unable to vote at the polling station at which they are entitled to vote because they are employed by the Commission to conduct elections at another polling station. The Returning Officer should verify the Officers’ details using the Voter’s Card and green National Registration Card. The person should present to the Presiding Officer their green National Registration Card and Voter’s Card in addition to the certificate when applying for a ballot paper.
  • Before the ballot paper is issued to the voter, the certificate must be surrendered to the Presiding Officer who must attach it to the marked copy of the register of voters. It is highly recommended that where possible, officers are deployed at polling stations where they are registered to vote.


In polling stations with a large number of voters, the polling stations are divided into two (2) or more voting streams with voters arranged in alphabetical order. At the entrance to the polling station there is an usher to direct voters to the right queue and room and also a large placard providing details of the streams.

Assistance to vote

Persons with disabilities or any other person who requires assistance to vote may be assisted by a friend, a relative or Presiding Officer. A person offering assistance other than the Presiding Officer must be eighteen (18) years and above and in possession of a Green National Registration Card.

Categories of people Types of assistance
Expectant mothers Allowed to go to the front of the queue
Persons with disabilities
  • Allowed to go to the front of the queue
  • May need assistance to enter the polling station
  • Assistance in some aspects of voting in particular with marking their ballot papers
The aged Allowed to go to the front of the queue
Illiterate Assistance with marking a ballot paper

Voting Procedures

The following is the procedure for voting on poll day;

  • Verification of voter’s identity (voter’s card, Green NRC and register of voters
  • Marking of thumb nail with indelible ink and issuance of stamped Presidential ballot papers,
  • Issuance of stamped Mayoral/Council Chairperson, National Assembly and Councillor ballot papers
  • Marking a ballot paper in a polling booth
  • Casting a ballot in the ballot box (sample of a picture, one casting a ballot)

Ballot Paper

It is a paper on which a voter marks his/her preference for a candidate or political party contesting for election.

Marking a Ballot Paper correctly

The correct way of marking a Ballot Paper is with an “X”. The voter places an “X” in the square to the right of the candidate of one’s choice. (insert sample Ballot Paper)

Security features

Ballot Papers used in Zambia contain unique security features that make them secure.

Spoilt ballot paper

A ballot paper becomes spoilt if;

  • It is accidentally torn by the polling assistants while issuing it to the voter
  • It is accidentally torn by a voter
  • The voter realizes that they have marked it wrongly before depositing it in the ballot box
  • It has ink stains
  • After being issued to a voter, it is found in or around the polling station

Rejected ballot papers

A ballot paper is rejected if;

  • it does not bear the official mark
  • it is marked on more than one candidate
  • anything has been written by the voter which could identify the voter
  • It is not marked
  • it has been marked with the voters thumb print.
  • it is not clear for whom the voter has voted.

Ballot boxes

Before voting starts ballot boxes are sealed with numbered plastic seals in the presence of party agents and accredited monitors and observers.

Election Type Colors of Ballot box lids Ballot papers
Presidential  Orange  Orange
National Assembly  Red  Red
Mayoral/Council Chairperson  Purple  Purple
Ward Councilors  Black  Black
Referendum  Brown  Brown

Poll day offences

These are offences that are committed during the day of voting. These include;

  • Canvasing for votes within a radius of 400 meters of a polling station during polling day.
  • Putting up a political notice or sign within a radius of 100 meters of a polling station during polling day.
  • Applying to vote twice
  • Coming with a ballot paper into a polling station.
  • Tearing up, deface or destroy a ballot paper or to leave a polling station with a ballot paper.
  • Removing anything from a ballot box before the time of the count or to damage a ballot box.
  • Loitering or refusing to leave a polling station after being directed to do so by the Presiding Officer.
  • Attempting or persuading the Returning Officer/Presiding Officer to make a false count or declaration of results.
  • Attempting to vote in another person’s name, for example voting for someone who is sick or dead
  • Putting or attempting to put into a ballot box anything other than a ballot papers


A person who commits any of the above offences will either be fined or imprisoned or both.

Vote Counting

This is a process of allocating and adding up the votes cast for each candidate in an election. It is done immediately after the close of the polling station. At the polling station, votes for each stream are counted separately. The Presiding Officer/Assistant Presiding Officer and Polling Assistants count the votes in the presence of accredited political party agents, monitors and observers. No person that is not accredited is allowed to witness the counting in the polling station.;

The Presiding Officer/Assistant Presiding Officer records the number of votes for each candidate for that polling station/stream. The accredited political party agents, monitors and observers are expected to confirm that the votes have been counted correctly by signing on the results form. Copies of the signed results form are then given to each accredited person present in the polling station.

Note: Candidates are allowed to have two polling agents to monitor elections in voting streams but one polling agent is allowed inside the polling stream at a given time.

Announcement and declaration results

    • At a polling station

The Presiding Officer announces election results at the polling station. This is done outside the entrance of the polling station. A copy of the polling station results form is posted on the wall outside the polling station for the general public to see.

    • At a totaling center

The Returning Officer is responsible for adding up results from all polling stations in a constituency. The Returning Officer announces and adds polling station results as they are received. The totaling of results is done in the presence of accredited political party agents, media, election monitors and observers. When all the polling station results have been added, the Returning Officer declares the winners of National Assembly, Mayor/Chairperson and Councilor Elections. The Presidential results are also announced but not declared. Results are then transmitted electronically to the National Results Centre in Lusaka.

    • At the National Results Centre

Presidential results are announced at the National Results Centre by the Electoral Commission as they are received from constituencies. Once all Presidential results have been received from all constituencies, the Commission Chairperson, who is the Presidential Election Returning Officer, shall declare the Presidential candidate who receives more than 50 % of the valid votes cast during an election as President-elect. Where no presidential candidate receives more than 50% of the valid votes cast, a second ballot shall be held; within thirty seven (37) days of the initial ballot. Candidates with the highest and the second highest number of valid votes cast in the initial ballot will qualify to stand in the election. Candidates with equal number of valid votes in the initial ballot will be eligible to stand in the election. In this election, the Presidential candidate who obtains the majority of the valid votes cast shall be declared President-elect. After the election, full results are published in the media and on the Electoral Commission official website: www.elections.org.zm.


This is a process that allows citizens to approve or reject a law to be passed by the legislature. In a Referendum Voters are given the opportunity to directly decide through a vote on a particular subject matter. All eligible citizens have the right to either accept or reject a question posed. A voter is expected to choose Yes or No on the question given. This may be regarding a new constitution, a constitutional amendment or a proposed law.

Election Petitions

This is the procedure to challenge the validity of an election when it is alleged that there was breach of the law. A petition is made to the court of law outlining the grounds on which the election petition is founded. In the Zambian legal system Petition grounds are set out in the Constitution of Zambia and Electoral Process Act.

How disputes are settled

Any disputes that may arise from the conduct of an election are settled through an election petition to be written by the aggrieved candidate before a court of law or an election tribunal depending on what the law provides.

Level of Jurisdiction

    • Presidential elections

Disputes are taken before the Constitutional court within Seven (7) days from the date on which the results of the election (first and second poll) are declared. The petition shall be heard within fourteen (14) days of the filing of the petition.

    • National Assembly Elections

Disputes arising from National Assembly Elections shall be filed in the High Court and heard within ninety (90) days of filling of the petition.

    • Local Government Election

Disputes arising from Local Government Elections for Mayors/Council Chairpersons and Councilors shall be filed before a Local Government Elections Tribunal and heard within thirty (30) days of filing of the petition.

    • Referendum Petition

A Referendum petition is the procedure of challenging the validity of the referendum when it is alleged that there was breach of the law. A petition is made to the High Court outlining the grounds on which the petition is founded within twenty one (21) days. A referendum petition may be presented by any person who voted or is eligible to vote in the referendum.