South Africa: Election Day 101

Voting day in the 2014 general election, Paradyskloof, Stellenbosch, South Africa.
press release

Mzansi takes to the polls on Wednesday for the 2019 National and Provincial Elections.

Democratic national and provincial elections have taken place in South Africa every five years and are an important way for people to debate and decide on their country's future.

They also provide an opportunity for voters to put to use their constitutional rights.

SAnews has compiled a list of all the things you need to know about Election Day.

Voting hours

Voting will take place between 7am to 9pm on Wednesday - 08 May. But all voters who are already in the queue to vote at 9pm - will be allowed to vote.

The day has been declared a public holiday to enable all persons to vote.

If you happen to work - government has appealed to employers to allow workers time off so they can vote.

In terms of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act - overtime work is voluntary and it is unlawful for any employer to force an employee to work overtime without the employees' consent, unless entities that in whole or in part have been declared essential services wherein workers on that day will be performing an essential service.

Verify your voting station

You first need to verify your registration status and obtain information on your voting district by visiting www.elections.org.za.

You can also call the IEC helpline on 0800 11 8000, download the IEC South Africa app, or SMS your ID number to 32810 (R1/SMS) to get your registration status.

What to bring?

You will have to take your South African identity document (ID) - either a green bar-coded ID book, smart ID card or valid temporary ID certificate to the correct voting station.

Don't have one? You can still visit your nearest Home Affairs office - which has extended its operating hours for your convenience.

Home Affairs extended hours

The Department of Home Affairs has extend it operational hours at all its offices which will be open from 8am to 7pm on Tuesday and from 7am to 9pm on Election Day.

The office can help you when you apply for Temporary Identity Certificates, which are available on the same day - in time for you to make your mark.

Temporary Identity Certificates are available at a cost of R70 at any of their offices. Two passport size photos and your ID number must accompany your application.

Voters can call Home Affairs on 0800 6011 90 toll free for more information.

At the voting station

At the station, you will need to present your valid identification document to the door controller at the entrance - who will zip-zip scan to verify your registration.

The voting officer will also check that your name appears on the voters' roll. If you are not on the voters' roll but have proof that you have registered (e.g. registration sticker), the Presiding Officer must validate your proof of registration.

Once the voting officer is satisfied that you have the correct ID, are a registered voter and have not already voted, your name is marked off the roll.

Outside your voting province

If you happen to be outside your registered province, you will still be allowed to vote only for the national government.

Inked for your X

You then proceed and will get your identification documents stamped and your thumbnail marked with indelible ink.

Since it is National and Provincial Elections, you will be given two ballot papers to choose for political parties to represent you at the different structures of government.

National and Provincial Elections- what is the difference?

The National Government ballot paper will allow you to make your mark for the political party that you want to make and carry out laws and policies for the whole country. It is made up of Parliament (led by the Speaker) and National Government, led by the President and Ministers.

The Provincial Government ballot paper, on the other hand, will allow you to choose a party which will make and carry out laws and policies that affect the province only. It is made up of the Legislature, led by the speaker, and Provincial Government, led by the Premier and Members of the Executive Council (MECs).

Your choice

After being given the two ballot papers, you will then proceed to an empty voting booth to make your 'X' next to the political party of your choice - on your ballot paper.

There are 48 political parties to choose from on the national ballot paper, with an additional 38 parties contesting the election in a provincial manner only.

You are free to choose any party that you believe its policies represent you and the future you want for South Africa.

Your vote your secret

After making your mark to your choice - you will then fold your ballot papers so that your choice isn't visible and place the ballot paper in two separate ballot boxes.

Several witnesses in the form of party agents and observers will also be present to keep an eye on the voting process at voting stations, the counting of votes, and the final counting, determination and declaration of results.

Observers, both domestic and international, play a crucial role in ensuring that the elections are transparent, free and fair, and that the outcome is accepted by voters, political parties and candidates.

The Party agents for their side check and verify the seals on the ballot boxes to ensure they are intact before the boxes are opened.

They also witness the process whereby the status of questionable ballot paper is determined and witness the completion of the result forms and add their signatures.

The voting stations have each been allocated law enforcement agencies - to ensure a safe voting environment.

Vote counting

Vote counting will begin soon after the voting station closes at 9pm.

The National Results Operation Centre at the Tshwane Events Centre is where all 48 registered parties and their votes will be updated as they are tallied.

The IEC anticipates that the final vote counting will be done by Saturday - when the winning party will be announced.

So what happens after?

After counting, political parties will be allocated seats according to the percentage each party received.

South Africa's electoral system is called the Proportional Representation (PR) system.

The PR system awards seats to political parties according to the percentage of votes each party receives in an election.

Political parties submit a list of candidates to the IEC for the National Assembly and the Provincial Legislatures. Candidates are listed in their order of preference.

An advantage of this electoral system is that it makes sure that smaller political parties are included and represented. This means that the legislatures are made up of people with different interests.

Other interesting facts and statistics

There are 22 924 voting stations across the country.

189 000 IEC officials will be present nationwide to guide you through the voting process.

About 26 744 565 South Africans are on the voters' roll.

Of the total people on the voters' roll - 14 716 879 are women (55%) which is 4% above the demographic split of the South African population, according to Statistics South Africa which is based on the 2018 Midyear Population Estimates.

The provinces with the highest number of registered voters are Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape.

In terms of age, the biggest category of voters are those aged 30 - 39 years old (6 685 472) which represents 24.99% of the voters' roll.

30 532 South Africans cast their vote at one of South Africa's 121 foreign missions.

774 094 citizens were approved to cast their special votes on Monday and Tuesday. These allowed those who were unable to reach a voting station due to physical infirmity, disability or pregnancy - to cast their votes in the comfort of their homes.

170 000 inmates will be able to vote with the Department of Correctional Services deploying voting officials in the 243 correctional facilities around the country.

The elections security plan is managed by National, Provincial, District and Local JOINTS structures of the JCPS Cluster - who will ensure that all areas will be accessible for all citizens to exercise their constitutional right to vote.

51 306 is the number of police officers which will be deployed in the voting stations on Election Day. As a force multiplier around 3 504 reservists will be deployed nationwide.

358 877 is the number of identity documents. Gauteng has the highest number of uncollected smart ID cards, at 101 787, followed by KwaZulu-Natal with 55 634 uncollected smart cards and Eastern Cape 46 504.

Voting aids for visually impaired and special need voters have been catered for with modified the traditional cardboard Universal Ballot Templates (UBTs) which enable easy identification of the party of choice by the voter.

For partially-sighted and sighted voters, the Commission has developed A0 posters showing the national ballot and the provincial ballot. These will be displayed in each voting station to help the voters easily distinguish the different parties on the ballot list.

There will be 9 result centres in each province and TSWABAC designated for the national results.

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