Frequently asked questions about voting in the 2014 elections

vote-qa-article
South Africans gathered for a Freedom Day celebration at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. Freedom Day, 27 April, marks the day in 1994 when the country held its first democratic elections. This year’s vote takes place on 7 May, in  South Africa’s 20th year of freedom. (Image: The Presidency)

Contact the Independent Electoral Commission
• IEC National Office
Spokesperson: Kate Bapela
Tel: 012 622 5700
Fax: 012 622 5784
Cell: 082 600 6386
spokesperson@elections.org.za
Call centre: 0800 11 8000
• Physical address
Election House
Riverside Office Park
1303 Heuwel Avenue
Centurion
0157
• Find the IEC online
Website
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Compiled by Mary Alexander

Why vote? Am I eligible to vote? Where do I vote? What are my rights as a voter? Read our plain English answers to these and many more questions about South Africa’s 2014 elections.

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Before election day

1. Why vote in the elections?

  • By voting you help make democracy work, and play a part in keeping South Africa’s democracy alive. You help make sure ordinary people have a say in the way the country is governed.
  • By voting, you are using your right as a citizen to choose your government.
  • Voting is your chance to pick the people – in both the national government and the government of your province – who you think will deliver the services you need, and protect your rights.
  • You can vote for anyone you want – the party you supported in earlier elections, a different party, or a new party. Your vote is secret and nobody can tell you who to vote for.

2. When are the elections?

  • The elections are on Wednesday 7 May 2014. The day is likely to be proclaimed a public holiday, so everyone has a chance to vote.
  • On Election Day, voting will take place from 07:00 to 21:00 (7 am to 9 pm). If you are still in the queue to vote at 9pm you must still be allowed to vote before the voting station closes.
  • The five-year term of the current parliament ends on 22 April 2014. According to law, elections for a new parliament and provincial governments have to be held within 90 days of this date.

3. Who can vote in the elections?

You can vote in the elections if:

  • You are a citizen of South Africa
  • You are 18 or older
  • You have a green bar-coded ID book
  • You are registered to vote in your voting district. This means your name and ID number are on the voters’ roll.
  • You are a South African citizen living in another country who has filled out the necessary form at your nearest mission that makes notice of your intention to vote.

4. How do I check if I am registered to vote in the 2014 elections?

To check if you are registered to vote, and where your voting station is:

  • Call 0800 11 8000 between 8am and 5pm, Monday to Friday (inside South Africa)
  • Call +27 11 654 1000 (outside South Africa)
  • Enter your ID number on the Electoral Commission’s My voter registration details web page

5. Can I vote if I’m a South African living abroad?

  • Yes, South Africans living abroad are allowed to vote, but only for the national elections.
  • In order to vote, they must have completed the required notification form at their nearest mission. The deadline for filling in this form closed on 12 March.
  • Voting for South Africans living abroad takes place on 30 April 2014, during the office hours of their embassy or consulate.

6. I’m in prison. Can I vote?

  • Yes. In March 2004 South Africa’s Constitutional Court ruled that even if people had committed a crime and were in prison, they still had the right as citizens of South Africa to vote for their government.
  • The voter registration period for people in prison took place between 5 and 7 February 2014. Voting registration for prisoners is now closed.
  • On 7 May, election day, prisoners will be allowed to vote in the normal way, when their prison is visited by a mobile voting station.
  • The right of prisoners to vote is a sign of South Africa’s strong democracy. In the southern states of the USA, 13% of all black men are not allowed to vote because they have been convicted of felony offences.

7. What if I’m not well enough to go to a voting station on election day?

  • Special votes: If you will find it physically difficult to go to the voting station – if you are infirm, old, ill, living with a disability or pregnant – then you can apply for a special vote.
  • If your application for a special vote is successful, an electoral officer will visit your home on either Monday 5 May or Tuesday 6 May, between 9am and 5pm, to let you cast your vote.
  • Applications for special votes are open only at local IEC offices – not at national or provincial offices – from 7 to 17 April. Find your local IEC office on the commission’s contact page.

8. What if I’ll be away from home on election day, and won’t be able to get to my voting station?

  • Special votes: If you know you will unavoidably be away from home on election day – for example for a job interview, or on a planned visit to family, or for any other reason – then you can also apply for a special vote.
  • If your application for a special vote is successful, you will be able to visit your election station on either Monday 5 May or Tuesday 6 May, between 9am and 5pm, to cast your vote.
  • Applications for special votes are open only at local IEC offices – not at national or provincial offices – from 7 to 17 April. Find your local IEC office on the commission’s contact page.

9. What will I be voting for?

You have two votes:

  • You vote once in the national elections for the party of your choice to be represented in the National Assembly in parliament.
  • Your second vote is in the provincial elections for the party of your choice to be represented in the legislature of your province.

10. What are my rights as a voter?

You have 10 rights as a voter:

  • The right to free and fair elections
  • The right to vote
  • The right not to vote
  • The right to spoil your vote
  • The right to vote once in each election
  • The right to your own free choice
  • The right to a secret vote
  • The right to get help to vote
  • The right to vote safely
  • The right to make a complaint

 

On election day

11. Where do I vote?

  • You must vote at the voting station for the district in which you are registered.
  • If you have voted in earlier elections, your voting station is probably at the same place you voted at before.
  • If you registered to vote in November 2013 or February 2014, your voting station will be at the same place you registered.
  • If you’re not sure where to vote, enter your ID number on the Electoral Commission’s My voter registration details web page. This will confirm whether you are registered to vote or not, and tell you where to vote.
  • If you go to the wrong voting station, the voting officers there will tell you where your right voting station is.
  • The IEC will issue the final list of voting stations on 10 April.

12. What if my voting station is far away, and I don’t have transport?

  • In a small number of voting districts, the Electoral Commission will send out mobile voting stations to reach voters in remote and sparsely populated areas. Even if you live far away from big cities, you still have the right to vote.
  • You must vote in the voting district where you registered to vote.
  • On 10 April the IEC will issue a list mobile voting stations, the routes they will follow, where they will stop and the estimated hours they will spend at each stop.

13. How long will it take to vote?

  • You should not spend too long in the queue as there are a fixed number of voters registered to vote at each voting station, and election day is likely to be made a public holiday.
  • Try to vote during normal working hours. The busiest voting times are before working hours, over lunch hour and after working hours.
  • If you are still in the queue at 21:00 (9 pm) at the end of election day, you must be allowed to vote before the voting station can close.

14. How do I vote?

  • You have to mark the ballot paper in a way that shows the party you want to vote for. You can do this by making a cross in the box next to the name of the party you support, or in another way that clearly indicates the party you are choosing.
  • If you are unsure about how to vote, go to a voter education workshop run by one of the IEC-accredited voter-education organisations or by your political party.

Voting Process

15. What are the steps in the voting process?

  • You show your ID document.
  • The voting officer checks and scans the bar code of your ID document.
  • The voting officer checks to see if your name is on the section of the voters’ roll for your voting district.
  • Your hands are checked to see if they have been marked with indelible ink – to make sure you haven’t voted already.
  • Your name is crossed off the section of the voters’ roll for your voting district. In the 2014 elections, the full voters’ roll will also be available in electronic format on the bar-code scanner devices at each voting station in case there are disputes about the right of anyone to vote in that voting district, and to find people’s correct voting station.
  • Your left thumb will be marked with indelible ink to make sure that you do not vote again in the 2014 elections.
  • An official stamp is put on the back of your ballot papers.
  • You have one ballot paper for the national elections and one ballot paper for the provincial elections.
  • You go into the voting booth and make a cross for one party on each of the ballot papers. If you are not sure how to vote, you can ask for help from a voting officer.
  • You fold the ballot papers and put the national one into the national ballot box and the provincial one into the provincial ballot box. A voting officer will check to see that the ballot papers have the official stamps on the back before they are put into the boxes.

16. What if I am physically disabled?

  • Bring along someone to help you. This person must be at least 18 years of age, and not a party agent or candidate on a party list.
  • Ask the presiding officer or a voting officer for help.
  • Apply for a special vote.

17. What if I have difficulty reading?

  • Ask the presiding officer or a voting officer for help. They will ask an accredited observer and two party agents, from different parties, to watch while they help you.
  • Ask the voting officer for a universal ballot template, a voting aid designed to assist sight-impaired citizens with voting.
  • Find out more about voting aid for voters with disabilities and special needs.

18. What if I make a mistake on my ballot paper?

  • If you make a mistake on your ballot paper, you can get a new one from a voting officer.
  • You can only get a new ballot paper if you notice the mistake before you put your vote into the ballot box.
  • If you get a new ballot paper, your old ballot paper will be cancelled.

 

After election day

19. After the election, how will the votes be counted?

  • Counting will mostly happen at each voting station.
  • Votes can be counted at a place other than at the voting station only with the approval of the IEC.
  • Since the 2009 elections, there are improved controls over the record paper with the final results for a voting station. This has to be signed by the presiding officer and all political parties, and then scanned to create an immediate record and so more trust and openness in the process of compiling results.

20. How will the election results be worked out and announced?

  • The overall election results will be worked out using a computer system at centralised venues under the control of the IEC.
  • There will also be accredited observers and party agents at these venues to check that everything is done correctly and fairly.
  • You can object against anything that happens during the elections that can affect the election results.
  • You must make an objection before 17:00 on the second day after voting.
  • The IEC will investigate your objection and can ask you to give evidence about the objection.
  • The IEC will decide what to do about the objection. The IEC must make a decision within three days after receiving your objection.
  • If you are not happy with the IEC’s decision, you can appeal to the Electoral Court within three days of the IEC’s decision.
  • After all objections are dealt with, the IEC must announce the final results within seven days of Election Day. In practice, the IEC has managed to announce election results on the third day after Voting Day.

Source: Media Guide: National and Provincial Elections 2014