OVK sees ‘significant increase’ in voter turnout

Henry

The Electoral Commission (ECC) on Wednesday saw a significant increase in the number of South Africans who participated in the national election today, compared to the national election in 2019.

So said Chief Electoral Officer Sy Mamabolo on Wednesday evening, with only two hours left for registered voters to cast their vote. However, the organization still could not say exactly what percentage of registered voters had voted by 8 p.m.

“We saw an unprecedented increase in voter turnout in the second half of voting day, compared to previous years. All we can say is that it is likely to be much higher than the 66% of registered voters we saw in 2019.”

He says that measures were already introduced earlier today to ensure that the increase in voters is tackled. This includes the fact that officers who actually had to be deployed later to help count votes, were already deployed earlier to polling stations to help with the voting process.

Still, some of the voters all over the country had to wait in line for up to eight hours on Wednesday before they could vote and stakeholders expressed their concern about whether these voters would actually get to vote on Wednesday.

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Mamabolo emphasized on Wednesday evening that no one who is already in line by 21:00 will be turned away at a polling point, but also said that they do not foresee that the voting process will continue until tomorrow.

“It’s a very complicated decision to extend the election period by another day. What do you do with the ballots that have already been submitted? We will give everyone the opportunity to vote, no matter what time it ends up being.”

He says it is difficult to say when the first results can be expected, precisely because of the increase in voters. “In the past, we would have been able to expect the first round of results as early as 01:00 on Thursday, but this year it may take slightly longer.”

The fact that three ballots, instead of two, must be counted this year may cause a further delay.

According to law, the IEC has seven days to announce the results.

A frequent complaint from voters across the country was that electronic voting devices did not work. However, Mamabolo pointed out that these devices are not required by law for a free and fair election. “Where the device did not work, a hard copy of the voter’s roll was available, and this is what the law requires. People were still able to vote, even though the devices didn’t work.”

Some of the voters also complained that in some cases they were turned away from polling stations because the boxes in which the ballots were placed were full, or that sometimes letters were placed in three different boxes and other times only in one box.

Mamabolo emphasized that a full box should not be a reason why voters are turned away and that they will investigate the matter. “It also doesn’t matter how many boxes the ballots are placed in. In the end, everyone counts.”