Elections 2014: guide to voting, counting and objecting

5 May 2014

South Africa goes to the polls on Wednesday – and many in the country who are too young to remember apartheid will be voting for the first time.

According to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), more young South Africans have registered to vote in this election than ever before – with 49.57% of registered voters under 40 years old.

The biggest segment of voters is those aged 30 to 39 (6.18-million), followed by 20- to 29-year-olds (5.7-million), the IEC says.

As this new generation of voters prepare to join millions of their fellow South Africans at the polls on Wednesday, we answer a few last-minute questions.

Are you ready?

If you are a South African citizen 18 years or older and have registered to vote, remember:

  • Voting stations are open from 7am to 9pm on Wednesday.
  • You must vote where you registered. SMS your ID number to 32810 to confirm your correct voting station. SMSs cost R1. Or you can check your registration details on the IEC’s website.
  • Take along your green bar-coded South African ID book, or a smart ID card, or your temporary identity certificate.

Download the app

The IEC has designed an app especially for voters which allows you to check your registration details, find your voting station – and keep up to date via social media.

The voting process

1. Entrance: When you get to the entrance of the voting station, the door controller will tell you when it is your turn to enter.

2. ID Document: You will be directed to the voters’ roll table where IEC staff will look at your ID book or temporary ID certificate and check for your name on the voters’ roll.

If you are not on the voters’ roll, but have proof that you have registered, such as a registration sticker, the presiding officer must validate your proof of registration. If the officer is satisfied with the proof, you will have to complete a VEC4 form (national elections) or MEC7 form (municipal elections) and will then be allowed to continue as an ordinary voter.

3. Inked thumb: IEC staff will ink your left thumb. This is special ink that will not wash off for several days. It will show everyone you participated (and prevent people from voting more than once). Your ID book will also be stamped to show you have voted.

4. Ballot paper: The voting officer will stamp the back of two official ballot papers (one for the national election; the other for the provincial election) and give them to you.

5. Voting booth: You will be directed to an empty voting booth. You will be alone in a voting booth. Your vote is your secret. Here, you will place your X in the box next to the political party of your choice on both ballot papers. Your vote does not have to be the same. Fold your papers and leave the voting booth.

If you incorrectly mark a ballot paper and realise this before placing it in the ballot box, just ask the presiding officer for a new ballot paper. Make sure that the incorrect ballot paper is marked as “cancelled”.

6. Ballot box: Place your folded ballot papers into the right ballot box: one for national; the other for provincial votes. Once your ballot has been placed in the ballot box, it can’t be removed.

7. Exit: Make your way to the exit. Security staff will be there to help you.

Physically disabled voters

If you are physically disabled or visually impaired, you can choose someone to help you at the voting station. The Presiding Officer can also help you cast your vote, but an observer and, if available, two agents from different parties must be present.

The ballot papers

An IEC official will give you two ballot papers that will be stamped on the back. One paper is for you to choose your preferred party for the National Assembly. The other paper is for you to choose your preferred party for the provincial legislature for the province in which you live.

You do not have to fill in the same party on both ballot papers – you can choose different parties if you want.

What information is on the ballot papers?

  • The full name of each political party
  • The abbreviated name or shortened name of each party
  • The logo or symbol of each party
  • A photograph of each party leader
  • A blank space for you to indicate the party of your choice

How do you make your mark?

Make your mark in the box next to the party of your choice. Make only one mark per ballot paper. Your mark must not touch any of the walls/lines of the box. It is best to make a cross.

If you make a mistake, do not put your paper in the box. Call an IEC official, who will cancel your paper and give you a new one.

Once you have made your mark, fold each ballot paper in half. An IEC official will then check the stamp on the back of every ballot. You can then place your paper into the relevant boxes.

The counting process

The overall election results will be worked out using a computer system at centralised venues under the control of the IEC.

Counting mostly happens 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.

Explanation of the counting process

1. Verify: Accredited observers and party agents watch over the entire process, starting with the opening and emptying of the sealed ballot boxes.

2. Unfold: Each ballot is unfolded and the back is checked for a stamp. Ballots without stamps are not counted.

3. Sorted: The ballots are sorted into piles according to votes for each party. The counting officer must decide whether or not a questionable ballot paper (where it is not definitively clear which party has been voted for) should be counted or rejected. Party agents can dispute this.

4. Count and bundle: The ballots are counted and bundled into packs of 100. The results are then tallied for each party.

5. Reconcile and recount (if necessary): The results for the various parties are now reconciled against the total number of ballots. If the numbers do not match, there is a recount of all the votes.

6. Sign results slips and seal ballots: Results are recorded on to a results system that has automated quality controls to ensure accuracy of results. Results slips are signed by the counting officer and the party agents and are scanned to allow political parties to compare against recorded results.

7. Results centres: The results are posted on the door of the voting station and are also electronically sent to the national and nine provincial results centres where they are verified and collated. Independent external auditors audit this process.

8. Final results: The final results and seat allocations for national and provincial legislatures are announced by the chief electoral officer – usually within seven days of the election.

Objections

You can object against anything that happens during the elections that can affect the election results.

You must make an objection before 5pm 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.

SAinfo reporter and Independent Electoral Commission