2024 ELECTIONS EXPLAINER
IEC sets sights on one million signups — four things to know about voter registration weekend
The highly anticipated 2024 general elections are around the corner, when millions of South Africans will head to the polls to mark their X. The Electoral Commission of South Africa will host its first registration weekend on 18 and 19 November to get as many registered before the voters’ roll closes.
In a few short months, millions of South Africans will join snaking queues at voting stations countrywide to cast their vote in the pivotal 2024 general elections. But one vital step needs to be taken before we get there: Registering to vote.
Statistics South Africa reported a 13 million shortfall in registered voters aged between 13 and 35. Additionally, the Electoral Commission of South Africa’s (IEC) voters’ roll statistics show that only 66% of the population has registered. Voter registration weekend is vital to closing that gap.
Target: One million more
At IEC headquarters in Pretoria on Tuesday, 15 November, chief electoral officer Sy Mamabolo told the media that the commission had set its sights on registering one million South Africans over the weekend.
“We have built the capacity to register the entirety of the 39 million people who are eligible. But we’ve got to be realistic because our registration framework is not compulsory, it is a voluntary system. The commission would be happy to enlist an additional one million people on the voters’ roll,” he said.
IEC spokesperson Kate Bapela added that the commission will work tirelessly to exceed the target one million.
Here are four things citizens should know about voter registration weekend:
1. Registering to vote is critical to democratic participation
Only 26,244,161 South Africans are currently registered as voters. In a Daily Maverick guest editorial, Ground Work Collective CEO Mbali Ntuli wrote that by registering, citizens contribute to creating a government that reflects the people’s will.
Mamabolo has echoed Ntuli’s sentiments. He told Daily Maverick it is essential that South Africans register because citizens can only have a say in the country’s political and economic direction if they are able to vote.
“You can only vote if your name is on the voters’ roll. If you miss the opportunity to be on the voter’s roll, you miss an opportunity to impact the political direction of the country,” he said.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Civil Society gears up for SA’s 2023 elections: Vote, Participate, Activate
Mamabolo added that from an administrative perspective, voter registration protects the integrity of the election and allows the IEC to ensure the credibility of the process.
“We can be sure that only those who qualify can participate in the election. Because by registering, we also verify your citizenship so that it is not people not from South Africa who are on the voters’ roll.”
2. It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3
Registering to vote may seem fairly daunting and a schlep to some, but it is a relatively seamless and easy process. While some may worry that registering might eat away at their weekend plans, Mamabolo has assured that it is a quick process that differs from election day, and the IEC does not anticipate long queues over the weekend.
“Once you are before a registration officer, the process should not take more than five minutes.”
When you get to the voting station, all you need is a South African identity document, either the green ID book, a Smart ID or a temporary ID certificate.
You will also need to know where your nearest voting station is. The IEC announced that there will be 22,300 voting stations nationwide where citizens can register.
It is essential to note that you need to register in the area you live in. If you have moved since the last election cycle, it is important to register your new address.
If you want to avoid going to the voting stations, the IEC has an easy fix. The new online voter registration service allows citizens to register through the voter information portal. Those who miss the registration weekend can also make an appointment to register at a local IEC office during office hours.
The IEC will also organise another voter registration weekend early in 2024.
3. Living overseas? No problem
German business data platform Statista reported that in 2020, roughly 915,000 South Africans lived outside the country, and the number is believed to have increased in recent years. But living outside the country doesn’t mean you miss out on the elections.
Mamabolo said there will be a registration weekend at various embassies around the world on a date that will be communicated by the IEC. There will also be an online facility for South African expats to register.
4. Don’t miss the bell
Once the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs proclaims the official date of the elections, the voters’ roll will close at 5pm on the day the proclamation is gazetted.
The voters’ roll is a list of all citizens who have registered, and once it closes, citizens who fail to register will not be able to vote.
It should also be noted that only people with South African citizenship can vote. Permanent residence holders cannot.
So, it is important for South Africans to register as soon as possible, taking advantage of the various ways to do so.
“What is important is that each person who is an inhabitant of our country is aware that there is a registration opportunity created this weekend. We are making a final push over the next few days to ensure people are enthused to go out. Being in the know is one thing, but taking proactive steps to go to a voter registration station or using the voter portal, is another,” Mamabolo said.
When will elections be held?
South Africa’s seventh democratic elections must be held between May and August 2024. The exact date will be announced by the President early in 2024, according to the IEC. DM
This weekend is the first voter registration weekend for the 2024 general elections. According to the IEC, there will be 22,300 voting stations open countrywide from 8am to 5pm. It is estimated that up to 13 million South Africans are not registered, most of them young people. Make sure you are not one of them. Make a plan to register. Take your friends and family, sports mates and church members. Let’s rebuild South Africa’s dreams of equality, voter by voter.