South Africa

ROAD TO LOCAL ELECTIONS

The voters: A guide to what we need to know

Archive Photo: A voter casts her ballot in a by-election at Touch Life Ministries in Lenasia South. The IEC announced it would have a voters’ registration weekend on 18 and 19 September. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla/Daily Maverick)

The road to local elections has been rocky so far, but soon we’ll be heading to the polls to choose our local government representatives. The question is, do you know how, when and where to register to vote, what to do on voting day and where to find information on your ward councillor? If not, this guide will help.

Municipal elections are officially around the corner after the Constitutional Court dismissed the Independent Electoral Commission’s (IEC) application to have them postponed. The court ordered that elections have to take place on a date between 27 October and 1 November. The voter registration weekend, which was meant to be 17 and 18 July, was cancelled due to a surge in Covid-19 cases. Voter registration was reopened by the court and after the IEC deliberated over the weekend, the registration of candidate nominations will reopen as well. 

The official election date will be proclaimed on 20 September, since the previous proclamation by Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma was set aside by the ConCourt. Once this happens, the commission will publish an amended election timetable which will provide truncated timelines.

Are you a registered voter? 

The IEC announced it would have a voters’ registration weekend on 18 and 19 September. This is necessary because you can only vote on election day if you are correctly registered to vote, at your relevant voting station. It is important to re-register whenever you move or your voting district boundaries change.

To vote you must be a South Africa citizen, be at least 16 years old (you can only vote from the age of 18) and have an ID book, a smartcard ID or a valid Temporary Identity Certificate (TIC).

To register in person, before registration weekend, you can go to your local IEC office and fill out a registration form. You will receive an SMS or email to confirm your registration is successful once the process is complete.  

Online registration is also possible on the IEC’s Voter Portal

The process takes about five minutes and requires you to have an electronic copy of your ID on file.  (When registering online on Tuesday, 7 September, applicants received a pop-up alert of confirmation indicating that it would be processed on 31 August, so it seems the system needs to still  be updated).

On voter registration weekend, instead of heading to your local IEC office, you can go straight to a registration station in the voting district in which you live. This will also be your polling station on election day. Remember to bring your ID. 

To find out where your registration station is, check the Voter Portal, the IEC website, or enquire at your local IEC office. 

With the huge time crunch for election preparations, the IEC says it has procured 40,000 Voter Management Devices which will be used for the first time over the registration weekend and are meant to speed up the verification process. 

We’re still in the middle of a pandemic, so remember to stay safe on registration weekend and election day.  

If you’ve voted in previous elections, you are likely to already be registered on the voters’ roll. To check if you are registered, you can go online, send an SMS to 32810, download the IEC mobile app and enter your ID number, or go to your local IEC office. 

Special vote 

A special vote allows a registered voter who can’t vote at their voting station on election day to apply to vote on a predetermined day before election day.

Applications for special votes will open on 20 September 2021 and close on 4 October 2021.

By law, you can apply for a special vote if you:

  • Can’t travel to your voting station because you are physically weak, disabled or pregnant; or
  • Can’t vote at your voting station on election day.

To register for a special vote you can apply online, SMS your ID number to 32249 or visit your local IEC office and submit a VEC1 form. 

Do you know who your ward councillor is? 

It’s surprising to note that most of us have no idea who our ward councillor is, yet they are vital to ensuring the demands and needs of our communities are met. 

The IEC has a handy online tool where you can search for your current ward councillor. The Voter Portal also allows you to see who your ward councillor is – you need an account for this feature. 

Lancaster Primary School in Lenasia South.  (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla/Daily Maverick)

As a result of the ConCourt’s order, the IEC decided over the weekend to reopen candidate registration on 20 and 21 September. While some candidates have already registered, others missed the previous deadline of Monday, 23 August. 

Parties such as the DA and IFP, however, are against amending the timetable and are seeking legal recourse against the IEC. 

Since candidate lists are not finalised, they are not yet available for the public to view. These will be published on the IEC website closer to the elections. 

Political parties, however, have been publishing their mayoral candidate lists, which in most cases you can find on their websites. 

Important dates to note: 

  • Voter registration weekend: 18 to 19 September;
  • Special vote application: 20 September to 4 October;
  • Proclamation of election date: 20 September; 
  • Candidate Registration: 20 to 21 September;
  • Election Day: TBC (must be between 27 October and 1 November); and 
  • Special voting: 30 to 31 October (TBC). DM
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