Your ballot paper’s way to parliament

Henry

Polls for the 2024 general election close at 9pm on Wednesday. Only after the last votes have been cast at a polling point does the counting begin. Here is the path your ballot takes from the box to a seat in parliament.

Each polling station counts their own votes when the polling station closes, after which they are sent to the IEC’s national results centre.

  1. Everything there?

The moment the polling station closes for the day, the IEC officials start counting their particular polling station’s votes. First, officials make sure that all the boxes allocated to the venue before voting day are present. Sealed boxes are then opened and emptied.

  1. Ballots unfolded

After that, all ballot papers are unfolded and piled with the back facing up. Here officers check that each ballot paper has an official IEC security stamp on the back. Stamped ballots are considered valid, with unstamped ballots considered invalid and not counted.

  1. Ballots sorted

All valid ballots are then grouped into the three categories by color – the national compensatory ballot, national regional seat ballot and the provincial ballot. After that, these three categories are sorted again according to the party or person for whom the particular ballot paper was voted for.

For example, the provincial piles are again divided into an ANC, DA, EFF, IVP and VF-Plus pile. This is all done manually.

  1. The counting begins

Each pile of ballot papers – subdivided into category and party or candidate – is counted and placed in piles of 100. For example, the ACDP’s Gauteng votes are counted and packed into piles of 100.

After all the ballots have been sorted in this way, the total votes for each party are counted (by adding up the piles of 100).

  1. Results verified

The results of the respective parties and candidates are then checked against the total number of ballots received and the total number of votes cast at the relevant polling station. This is to ensure that ballots do not disappear or appear out of nowhere.

  1. Result slip signed

A slip with the results is then signed by the counting officer, independent candidate agents and party agents. This contains the results of the polling point in question. A hard copy of the slip is pasted on the door of each polling station. This is so that anyone who wants to check the results of any particular polling station can do so against the results that are sent to the national polling station to ensure that no error slips in.

Another packed and sealed copy of the result slip is transported to the local IEC office where it is scanned and fed into the national results system.

These results are also verified by independent external auditors.

  1. The result center

As the results are read into the national results system, they appear electronically at the respective results centers across the country, with the national results center this year at the Gallagher Estate Conference Center in Midrand.

The result centers are there for political and independent parties to monitor the voting process, counting process and results. Political and independent parties can report any alleged irregularities to the result centres.

  1. The results

The final results and seat allocation for the national assembly and provincial legislatures must be announced by the IEC within seven days of the election.

The IEC has already indicated that they will hopefully be able to announce the final results by this coming Sunday. Because voters fill out three ballots for the first time this year, the counting process is expected to take longer than previous years.

  1. Votes become seats

After the finalization of the results, these votes for respective parties are converted into seats in the national and provincial legislatures – this also appears at the result centres. All political parties have already finalized their party lists before the election and submitted them to the IEC. New members of parliament and members of the provincial legislature are appointed based on the number of seats granted to the party and the person’s position on the party list.

Votes are converted into seats according to the national electoral formula. Because South Africa has a proportional electoral system, every single vote contributes to the way in which seats are allocated to parties.

  1. New parliament formed

A total of 14 days after the final results have been returned, the new (seventh) parliament must hold its first session. During this time, new members of parliament are sworn in, who must vote for the new president of the country after being sworn in.