Voice of America (Washington, DC)

11 February 2014

South Africa: Govt to Deploy Technology to Improve Election Credibility

The spokesperson of South Africa's Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) says the electoral body will deploy new technologies as part of its preparations to administer a credible election scheduled for May 7.

Last week, South Africa President Jacob Zuma announced the country will hold its fifth national general elections on May 7, following consultations with senior officials at the IEC.

IEC spokesperson Kate Bapela says parliament has amended the country's law, which she says, will for the first time enable South Africans living abroad to register and vote at the embassies near them.

"That was a watershed legislative amendment," said Bapela. "We already have received more than 3,000 applications of South Africans that were registered in our various missions in all the countries where South Africa is represented abroad."

Bapela cited some of the new technologies that the IEC will deploy during the May vote.

"We have a hand-held scanner, and when you come to our voter station when we scan your ID it basically gives us a profile of who you are. But, on top of that we've got equipment that scans a form that gives us residences of people that come into our voting station. So that in that way we are able to segment the voters roll and know who resides where and why they are supposed to be in that voting station," said Bapela.

She says IEC records show that there has been a surge in voter registration in South Africa as the electoral body compiles a voters list to be used for the election.

Bapela says prospective voters went to the polling stations to register in spite of bad weather.

"Our target for the 2014 election was 2,000,000, but to our surprise we were able to register an additional 1,259,560 new voters to our voters roll. It means our voters roll is now sitting at 25.3 million, which translates to 300,000 additional new registered voters on our voters roll. To us it's quite a huge feat," said Bapela.

She says the electoral body plans to train about 200,000 officers to help administer the elections.

"We have just finalized the training of our staff. For the final voter registration weekend, we had 55,000 staff working throughout the whole country," said Bapela. "[But] as we go to the election, the number triples. We will have more than 200,000 people working in the various voting stations in our country. So ensuring that the staff is ready for the elections becomes extremely critical at the level that we are now."

Bapela says the IEC has launched a nationwide voter education campaign that is being broadcast on television, radio as well as on social media platforms.

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