UPDATE, 20 July 2021:
Former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke has advised the Independent Electoral Commission to postpone the upcoming local government elections, scheduled for 27 October this year. Moseneke has recommended that February 2022 be the new target, as only by then would 40% of the population be vaccinated and a herd immunity state be reached, thus providing sufficient protection for voters.
Moseneke released his report into the matter today. The report is not mandatory, but the commission will apply its mind before making a decision. “We’re dealing with probability, not certainty, ” Moseneke said. “The basis of the report is to try to save lives. We should have elections soonest, but not at all costs.”
On 14 July the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) its online voter registration facility, Voter Portal, which allows new voters to register and existing voters to confirm or update their details.
The system has been in development for several years, the IEC said in a statement, and is part of its on-going commitment to provide voters with greater accessibility and convenience. Other initiatives implemented to this end over the past five years include online candidate nominations, online special vote applications and online party funding declarations.
Now, the new facility will allow new and existing voters to manage their registration from the ease and convenience of their homes or elsewhere, cutting down on congestion – crucial in this time of Covid-19 – and maximising the number of registrations.
All eligible voters, whether registered or not, said the IEC, will be able to use the portal via a computer, smart mobile device or tablet. This will be particularly convenient for first-time or young voters, said the organisation, which announced in June 2021 that it was targeting youth voters particularly. “Research and engagements over the years with young eligible voters to better understand their behaviour have frequently identified the lack of online voter registration as a key obstacle.”
In terms of voter security and protection, the system incorporates a number of checks to ensure the integrity of the voters’ roll, including one-time pin (OTP) verification and the submission of a scan or photograph of the voter’s ID document.
“The online registration complements other existing registration options such as on-going voter registration at all local IEC offices and various outreach initiatives including at schools, tertiary education institutions and the general voter registration weekends ahead of elections,” the IEC said.
South Africa is scheduled to hold local government elections on 27 October this year, depending on a forthcoming report on the conditions prevailing in the country. In May the IEC announced the appointment of former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke to lead a process to evaluate whether Covid-19 would negatively affect the conditions conducive for the holding of free and fair elections. The Moseneke Report on Ensuring Free and Fair Elections during COVID is expected by 21 July 2021.
Meanwhile, the upcoming voter registration weekend that was to take place on 17 and 18 July, has been rescheduled for 31 July and 1 August, because of the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. This is also, in hindsight, a wide decision in light of the unrest and turmoil experienced throughout South Africa over the past week, and which had not yet started up at the time of the IEC’s announcement to delay the registration weekend.
“All 23 151 voting stations are expected to open between 08h00 and 17h00 over that weekend to help voters register and check their registration details in person.”
Convenience and accessibility
Owing to the 24/7 nature of online registration, the IEC, said. Voter Portal will also allow voters to register and update their registration details up to the last possible moment ahead of proclamation, which has the effect of sealing the voters’ roll for purposes of an impending election. Proclamation is set down for 6 August.
Eligible voters can register in just a few easy steps:
1. Go to https://registertovote.elections.org.za.
2. Click “Register to Vote Now”.
3. Enter your personal details.
4. Enter the OTP sent to your cellphone.
5. Search for your address, or if you are at home, use the current location on your device.
6. Take a photo of your ID OR submit a scan of your ID.
7. You will receive an SMS within 24 hours confirming your successful registration.
All South African citizens aged 16 years and older in possession of a South African ID (smartcard ID or green barcoded ID book) are permitted to register as voters. Only registered voters aged 18 or older on election day may vote.
Registration must be done in a voting district in a ward in which the person ordinarily resides and the IEC reminded voters that it is an offence to provide false information or to knowingly register in an inapplicable ward, as in a local government election voters may only vote in their registration district.
For those needing assistance, while agents at the IEC Contact Centre are also able to assist voters with the online facility. The Contact Centre is open weekdays from 08h00 to 17h00 on 0800 11 8000 in all languages.