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Just registered to vote in the 2024 elections? Here’s what you need to know next

Just registered to vote in the 2024 elections? Here’s what you need to know next
You've registered, now what? (Photograph: Unsplash)

Registering to vote is a key part of democracy, but it has to translate to marked ballots on election day. Here is what you need to know once you have registered. 

After the voter registration weekend on 18 and 19 November, the role of the youth in the upcoming elections — and the state of democracy in South Africa — is evident. 

According to the Electoral Commission of South Africa, 19.57% of registrants were citizens who were registering for the first time. 

Young people in the age category 16-29 accounted for 78.31% of newly registered voters — equating to 445,089 of the 568,374. And yet, almost 14 million voters remain unregistered, and the efforts to build up the voter roll cannot stop here. 

“I think it’s amazing that such a large portion of the new registrations were young people… [though] it’s actually not a lot of people compared to how many are still unregistered,” says Pearl Pillay, managing director at Youth Lab, a youth policy and development organisation.

“But I think it does speak a lot about the appetite of young people. It’s an indicator of the role that young people are going to play in this next election if we show up.”

Registering to vote is a key part of the electoral process, although it takes place months before citizens line up to make their mark. Even if one is still unsure about which candidate or party to vote for, registering allows you to make that choice come voting day. 

“It’s almost like buying a ticket to a show — whether or not the show is going to be good, whether or not you’re going to actually show up, you’re at least giving yourself the opportunity to make that choice,” Pillay explains.

A second registration weekend will take place on Saturday 3 February and Sunday 4 February 2024. This will be a final chance to register, as once the election day is announced, registration will be closed, says Pillay.

There is no need to wait until then as online registration is still available.

“Treat February as our deadline to get new registrations in,” advises Pillay.

I’ve registered, what now? 

In the lead-up to the elections, Pillay emphasises the importance of remaining engaged in democracy, highlighting key events and involvements that voters should stay abreast of.

Encourage others to register

There is still time to register, and Pillay encourages people to get involved in their communities and encourage others to register too. 

“If all of the unregistered people registered to vote and voted for the same party, that party would win by a landslide,” Pillay illustrates. 

“In 2019, the ANC won 10 million votes — we have 14 million people that are just unregistered … the numbers show you actually how powerful young people are in this democracy. It should be something that gives people pause for thought.”

Do the research and read manifestos

In the next few months, parties will begin to release their manifestos for the upcoming election. This is a chance for voters to find out exactly where various parties stand on key issues and then make an informed decision on where to place their mark.

“Watch very closely what they say about young people, and how they focus their issues,” Pillay says. 

“I think this election is also going to be around issues — people are going to vote around how they feel about certain issues rather than broad ideologies in that traditional sense.” 

Topics such as employment, safety, education and universal basic income are long-standing issues that the youth should look for, and more topical issues may come to the fore, such as the war between Israel and Hamas. 

“The Palestine issue has been really interesting to watch, because people are actually using that as leverage for how they’re going to vote next year,” Pillay says. 

“It’s important to look at what parties are saying about the issues that you feel passionate about.” 

Get familiar with your options 

As elections get closer, candidates will ramp up their campaigning. To avoid being lost or overwhelmed when seeing all the options on the ballot sheet, it is useful to familiarise oneself with various candidates and then do research on candidates who may get your vote. 

“Your options are going to start becoming available to you in the next couple of months. In the meantime, the homework for us is to think about what kind of leader we want in South Africa,” Pillay says, outlining some questions to hold in mind: 

  • What kind of leader are you looking for?
  • What kind of values do you want the party in power to espouse?
  • Are there single issues that you care about?
  • What are you looking for specifically?

Don’t stop at registering, go vote, and bring others with you

When election day comes, it is important that registrations translate to marked ballots. In 2019, 66% of registered people exercised their right to vote.

“If you look at the percentage of people who are registered versus the percentage that actually show up, it’s a very large gap,” Pillay says. 

“Go outside. You live in a community, talk to people.” 

For young people, the elections are an opportunity to vote towards the country they want to see. 

“What are we going to do with democracy? And what are we going to do with this country that we’re going to inherit, in whatever condition we inherit in? It’s not an old car that you can just sell for scraps, right? You have to make the thing work,” Pillay says. 

“This election and our attitudes towards it, and the way we organise the conversations we have with each other, is us laying the groundwork for what we do with this country when we eventually inherit it. We’ve got to spend the next few months doing that.” DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Colin Braude says:

    Voting is about having a say in the future of your country.

    Currently the choice is between on the one hand, the “broad church” — a de facto coalition, really — of the ANC (& EFF) which undervalues the Rule of Law, maintains apartheid race classifications (albeit with different group privileges) and favours a Big State with a new nomenklatural elite and soaring unemployment (while allowing some market forces to act)

    On the other hand are those opposition parties that support the the Rule of Law, are anti-racist and favour the economic market policies that have created the most wealth and reduced inequality by allowing market forces — individual freedoms and effort — to prevail (while still keeping a “safety net” to ensure nobody is left behind).

    There is some overlap and different parties have their own “Big (Wo)Men”, but the differences are great enough to maintain or change the direction SA is heading.

  • palmwag says:

    Could I find justification( economical or political) why trade onions are being subsidised by the government as to at least 75% of their total income ( ie for every R100 they receive from their worker members the State contributes R300) This information was passed on to me in a casual conversation by an insider of one the largest trade unions in SA.It is unclear if all the trade unions enjoy similar benefits.
    Is this worth while to be questioned in Parliament or is it common knowledge.?

  • C Moola says:

    There is LOTS that ordinary citizens can do to support elections also. Get involved! Volunteer with the IEC as observers, polling station staff, vote counters, party monitors, etc. Get involved so you don’t have to complain about dumped ballot papers after the fact. Get involved instead of complaining and forwarding conspiracies on social media. Elections work by citizen involvement. Get involved.

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