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Fact-Check — If you don’t vote, is your vote automatically assigned to the ANC?

Fact-Check — If you don’t vote, is your vote automatically assigned to the ANC?
African National Congress (ANC) supporters wait for Nelson Mandela on a billboard in a township just outside Durban before a pre-election rally in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, in 1994. (Photo: ALEXANDER JOE / AFP)

Voting is one of the few things you can do personally to contribute to the health of democracy. But if you don’t, does your vote end up recorded as having been cast for the ANC?

If you have seen almost any social media posts relating to the 2024 South African general elections, chances are that you’ve seen someone eventually join the conversation to say that if you, as a South African citizen, do not cast your vote in an election, your vote is automatically assigned to the ruling party: in this case, the ANC.

This myth has been doing the rounds for years, and the Electoral Commission has had to debunk it before.

But it seems to be resurfacing with particular force ahead of this year’s elections, which will be held at some point between May and August. At the beginning of February, the IEC once again had to clarify on social media:

“There is absolutely no truth to the rumour that if you don’t vote your vote will go to the ruling (or any other) party. Only valid votes cast in an election are counted in the result. Of course, that doesn’t mean there is no impact if you don’t vote.”

It is hard to know exactly where this piece of fake news came from, given that it’s one of the most blatant and dramatic pieces of misinformation to circulate in our political space. It is completely devoid of truth: there is nowhere in the world with a functional electoral system that works like this.

The only sense in which this lie has any meaning is the following: If you don’t vote, you have no say in the democratic outcome of the elections. In years gone by, when the ANC commanded a very strong majority at the ballot box, failing to vote could be interpreted as supporting the status quo through inaction.

There are also some analysts who believe that globally, lower voter turnout favours the incumbent — namely, the party that is in power at the time when the elections are held. But research from places like India has shown there is no reliable relationship between voter turnout and incumbent

Everyone should vote: it’s one of the few things you can do personally to contribute to the health of democracy. But if you don’t, there is no reason to believe — based on past elections — that your vote will end up recorded as having been cast for the ANC. DM

Visit Daily Maverick’s Election Hub to have all your elections 2024 questions answered.


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Donald bemax says:

    Interesting . However.. the ANC has told people that if they lose the election then the opposition party, “read DA” will discontinue the SASA grants.

    • Kenneth FAKUDE says:

      True Donald and it’s irresponsible and in a functional state it can even be criminal, unless if the DA did say something that can be interpreted to that effect.
      It is a worry some desperation and it is scary because it does not say we have done wrong to fix that we will do 123.
      The grant is coming from our taxes that we pay through our nose and ears, grants cannot be exchanged for votes.

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