FAQs about registering to vote ahead of 2019 election

The first voter registration weekend on 10 and 11 March left much to be desired, according to Amanzimtoti residents.

There were numerous complaints of mal-administration with residents not trusting the SMS or website help lines to verify their details, and rather opting to visit their voting station to ensure their details were captured correctly.

Ward 97 councillor, Andre Beetge believes much of the confusion regarding the registration process leading up to the 2019 national election could possibly be avoided by stopping in at the IEC offices located within the perimeter of the Sizakala Centre in Gracedale Road, Winklespruit or using the opportunity created during the published registration weekends.

A few of the frequently asked questions around the process:

Q: I have been voting at the same place for years, so how can they say they don’t have my details?

A: The problem exists not in that people may have been on the voters roll at a specific voting station (voting district or VD) for many years but the fact that the Electoral Act never placed any demand on the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to harvest and capture actual residential addresses.

Q: So why must we suddenly give our addresses if they never asked for it before?

A: The problem started in 2013 when during a by-election (an election conducted somewhere in between the five-year periods legislated for municipal elections which could result after a ward councillor died, resigned or was removed by means of a vote of no confidence, following an election being declared invalid) in Thlokwe (Potchefstroom, North West Province), it was alleged that people who were not resident within the contested wards were being bussed in to re-register and as such, increase numbers in favour of a specific political party.

Eight independent candidates approached the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) after the IEC confirmed 1,040 people had been incorrectly registered. Subsequent to which the ConCourt in November 2015 ruled that not only did it consider the by-elections as not free and fair, but it also declared them invalid and by definition, agreed with the applicants in that the IEC should harvest and have available to all participants, a voters roll which also contained residential addresses.

At the time, the 2016 local government elections (LGE) were merely months away and the IEC, on realising that it lacked addresses for up to 46% of the more than 26-million people registered to vote in the August 2016 elections, appealed the ConCourt in April 2016 arguing that it was before 2003 not required to keep addresses of voters and as such the lack of a voters’ address did not make the roll irregular and that there was also not sufficient time to obtain these addresses in time for the 2016 LGE.

The ConCourt took cognisance and extended grace with the understanding that the exercise had to be concluded before the national elections scheduled for 2019.

READ ALSO: Understand the proportional voting system

Q: I have been voting at the same voting station for years but now they suddenly say I have to go somewhere else?

A: It could well be that the resident had been registered in the incorrect VD all along, as subject to the address harvesting, the IEC (and residents) often accepted a person merely registering at the closest VD from where they reside. When the resident then submits for checking and the residential address (which is overlaid on a map available in all VDs) is found to be outside the VD boundary, the IEC will refer them to the correct VD.

Q: Why is it that I vote at one station and my neighbour who lives right across the street votes at a different voting station?

A: Contrary to popular belief, local VD boundaries have remained unchanged since 2006. The reality is that the border between the VDs could be the middle of a street, resulting in neighbours with even numbers on one side voting at a different location from those on the opposite side with uneven numbers. They could even need to vote in different wards altogether.

Q: I sent an SMS and they replied that I was registered but then I received a second SMS which indicated that the address could be wrong or missing – what now?

A: It’s better to be safe than sorry – if you have any doubt, rather take a few minutes to drop in on the IEC at their closest office or use the registration weekends to make sure you are not disappointed on election day and deprived of your constitutional right to vote for the government that best represents your interests.

READ ALSO: Heed the call to register to vote in 2019 elections

Q: Can I register with a passport or driver’s license?

A: Unfortunately you can only vote using a barcoded SA identity document, smart card ID or a valid temporary ID – no passports or driver’s licenses are accepted for voting purposes.

Q: Although I’m not a South African citizen, I was allowed to vote in 1994 but never again thereafter. Why?

A: At the birth of our democracy, every person who could produce valid identification and whether a South African citizen or not but who was within the borders of the country, was allowed to cast a vote. The logic at the time was that many South Africans were either forced to leave the country, renounce citizenship for political reasons or had returned to their country of birth but then as foreign citizens. It was a concession only applicable to 1994, whereafter only South African citizens were allowed to vote. This is not unique as the same practice applies in other countries.

Q: What will happen if I’m away visiting family when the time comes to vote?

A: The 2019 elections are national elections, which means there will be two ballots – the one applicable to the provincial vote, and the other to the national vote. If a person is registered within a province and they are anywhere within the borders of the province on election day, they will still receive and be able to cast their vote on both ballots.
If a person is registered in a province but finds themselves outside the province but within SA borders on election day, they will not be issued with a provincial ballot, but will still be able to cast their national ballot vote.
If they find themselves both outside the province and country and they have not made arrangements to either vote on special voting days (usually the two days immediately preceding election day) or with the embassy where they are at the time (national ballot only), they will not be able to cast their vote.

For more information on voting or voter registration weekends, call Cllr Andre Beetge on 082-718-8137.


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(Comments posted on this issue may be used for publication in the Sun)

Earl Baillache

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