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Twenty people in KwaZulu-Natal arrested for voting twic...

South Africa

2019 ELECTIONS: NEWSFLASH

Twenty people in KwaZulu-Natal arrested for voting twice – but those votes still count

IEC Deputy CEO Mawethu Mosery held a media briefing and addressed concerns around illegal duplicate voting at the KwaZulu-Natal results centre in Durban on 9 May 2019. Photo: Aisha Abdool Karim

IEC officials briefing media on Thursday afternoon in KwaZulu-Natal said that they were satisfied that the electoral process in the province had been carried out freely and fairly. 20 people have been arrested in KwaZulu-Natal for voting twice, which the election officials pointed to as proof that the necessary checks and balances are in place to prevent electoral fraud. But here’s the kicker: the duplicate votes have to be counted like legitimate votes.

By Thursday morning, the police had acted in response to tip-offs from the IEC to arrest 20 people in KwaZulu-Natal for voting twice.

Elections officials in the province made this announcement at a media briefing at the Durban results centre.

Acting provincial electoral officer Ntomb’futhi Masinga told journalists that one person had been arrested in Port Shepstone, two in Hluhluwe and 17 in Dannhauser for having cast multiple votes.

It appears that the voters in question were able to remove ink from their thumbs and then vote at more than one station by using the provision in the Electoral Act which permits people to vote at a different voting station to the one in which they are registered.

IEC deputy CEO Mawethu Mosery explained that the scanner which reads voters’ ID documents is not linked to a live national server. In other words, it is possible for an ID document to be scanned successfully at more than one voting station without the voter being stopped. But once the scanners’ data has been uploaded and reconciled with the voters’ roll after voting has closed, the fact that a voter has cast more than one ballot is detected immediately, and police dispatched to make the relevant arrests.

Mosery said that in this case there was no indication that the problem of duplicate votes cast in KZN extended wider than the 20 people arrested.

But what happens to the duplicate votes cast by the fraudsters?

That is the difficulty for the IEC: all votes have to be counted, because there is no way of knowing which votes were cast by the voting cheats due to the strict secrecy provisions governing the voting system.

They all look the same,” Mosery explained, in reference to votes. “This was a secret ballot environment.”

In other words, the unlawful votes will be counted alongside the legitimate votes, unless the results of the voting stations in question are legally challenged by political parties.

Mosery said that he had not yet heard the suggestion that one particular party had been disadvantaged by the duplicate votes.

Multiple political parties have thus far voiced unhappiness with various aspects of the voting process, but some politicians are conscious of needing to proceed responsibly.

As leaders, we are careful, because we don’t want to incite violence,” the DA’s premier candidate in KwaZulu-Natal Zwakele Mncwango told Daily Maverick on Thursday.

You don’t want to make statements where voters on the ground might start to reject the elections and end up having conflict.”

The IEC’s Masinga said that although the electoral provision allowing voters to cast ballots distant from home had been in place for previous elections, there was evidence that the provision was “abused” on this occasion.

She stressed that the clause is supposed to allow voters to fulfil their democratic rights if they unexpectedly find themselves far from the station where they are registered on Election Day.

In the 2019 elections, however, it appears that many legitimate voters simply opted to pick voting stations at whim or for greater convenience rather than sticking to their registration details.

This messed up our provision quantities,” said Masinga.

She explained that election officials ordinarily have more than enough ballot papers at each station to cater for the number of people registered there to cast their votes. This year, however, so many people chose to vote at different stations that “area managers had their work cut out trying to get more ballot papers”.

Masinga said that, nonetheless, in KwaZulu-Natal “not a single person ended up not being able to vote because we ran out of ballot papers”.

Despite these challenges, the IEC expressed satisfaction with the general manner in which voting proceeded in KwaZulu-Natal this year.

We are quite happy that the election we delivered was a credible one,” Masinga said.

Results are trickling in slowly from KwaZulu-Natal voting stations, with only 23% of stations reporting results by 2pm on Thursday. The ANC looked set to maintain its majority in the province at that time, but all-important urban centres in the province had not yet submitted results. DM

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