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2024 ELECTIONS

High turnout and third ballot slowed vote count, says Electoral Commission

High turnout and third ballot slowed vote count, says Electoral Commission
IEC chief electoral officer Sy Mamabolo briefs the media at the Results Operation Centre in Midrand on 30 May 2024 on how the IEC voting process unfolded. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

The Electoral Commission of South Africa has said the counting process in the 2024 elections has been slowed by the third ballot — particularly in the metros.

The Electoral Commission of South Africa’s (IEC) chief electoral officer Sy Mamabolo has said that the counting of votes will be slower than usual in certain areas because of the addition of a third ballot in the 2024 polls and the high voter turnout. 

electoral commission slow vote count

A woman is helped by an IEC staff member while casting her vote at the St Hubert Catholic Church in Alexandra, Johannesburg. (Photo: Chris Collingridge)

“While this process [the counting] is proceeding well, it is important to reflect that historically, in the first 24 hours, 80% of the results would have been finalised. However, the process in the 2024 national and provincial elections has been slowed down by the third ballot, particularly in the metropolitan areas,” Mamabolo said on Thursday night, 30 May.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Elections dashboard

According to the Electoral Act, the IEC has seven days within which to announce the results, which Mamabolo says the commission will endeavour to do in these elections. 

electoral commission slow vote count

Media briefing by the IEC on how the voting process went at the Results Operation Centre in Midrand on 30 May 2024. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

The commission announced the first result just after midnight on Wednesday, 29 May. Mamabolo said this was in a voting district in the Winnie Madikizela Municipality in the Eastern Cape. The IEC told reporters on Thursday afternoon that the last voting station closed at 3am on Thursday morning; however, Daily Maverick has received multiple reports of voting being extended beyond 3am at certain stations. 

By 4pm, results had been concluded for 22.6% of the more than 23,000 voting districts.

The rate of result capture, according to Mamabolo, is as follows: Northern Cape has captured 63%, Eastern Cape 58%, Western Cape 57%, Free State 56%, Mpumalanga 42%, North West 36%, Gauteng 28%, Limpopo 26%, and KwaZulu-Natal 23%. 

The IEC appears to be standing its ground regarding its earlier claims that the country has seen a higher voter turnout in this election compared with the 2019 general election. This is despite some analysts and politicians saying that their own models suggest a lower turnout than in 2019. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: IEC anticipates high voter turnout ‘well beyond’ that of 2019 as voters line up across SA

 

Daily Maverick reported long, snaking queues at voting stations countrywide on Wednesday, as voters reported issues with delayed ballot papers, glitches with the commission’s online system and poorly trained staff. The IEC has had a mammoth task preparing for the election, and budget cuts leading up to the watershed polls have compounded its challenges, Daily Maverick’s Lerato Mutsila reported

electoral commission vote count

People queue to cast their votes in Durban on 29 May 2024. (Photo: Reuters / Alaister Russell)

Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) executive director Professor Narnia Bohler-Muller said she was “surprised” that the voter turnout appeared to be higher than that of 66% recorded in 2019, based on what the IEC has told the public.

“But it does appear that maybe when people saw the long queues they started going out in droves. People were there and were waiting to vote. There would of course be people that leave, but I think maybe this election is a little bit different,” Bohler-Muller said.

Collette Schulz-Herzenberg, associate professor of political science at Stellenbosch University, said the “long, snaking queues, reminiscent of ’94” certainly seemed to show a determination by voters to remain in the queue despite the length of time waiting to cast their ballots.

“However, this also needs to be understood not necessarily as an indicator of high turnout, but also a result or function of what’s actually happening in the voting stations themselves. And we know that the scanners weren’t operational in several voting stations (I would say many voting stations), so what happened there was that people were being verified manually using the voters’ roll – crossed off with a ruler and a pen,” Schulz-Herzenberg said.

She said the issues at voting stations “would certainly have slowed things, which would account for the long queues”.

electoral commission vote count

The queue outside of the Assemblies of God Livingstone voting station in Mitchells Plain, Cape Town, on 29 May 2024. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

She reiterated what Mamabolo said about the third ballot being a factor in the slower electoral process.

“We are looking at a new ballot – a third ballot – and while it may not take much longer for an individual to vote, accumulatively, over time, it is bound to always have some time impact on the ability to get people through the polls quickly. If you take all these various factors into account, I don’t think it’s enough to assume that we had a high turnout election,” Schulz-Herzenberg said.

Read more in Daily Maverick: LIVE: MK to Gwede Mantashe — pack up, our Premier is heading to KZN

Training of staff

Following reports of issues regarding the training of IEC staff, Mamabolo said staff were trained over a period of four days. 

“They had to complete a series of modules understanding the role of the commission, understanding the registration process, the counting process, the voting process, and so on. They further had to do practicals in terms of how to do the voting station layout, how to configure the ballot box, and so on,” Mamabolo said.

electoral commission vote count

People queue to vote in Cape Town on 29 May 2024. (Photo: Reuters / Esa Alexander)

He said staff were recruited on the basis of a recruitment and selection criteria agreed to by political parties. Mamabolo said it was imperative that the recruitment policy “had to take account of the pervasive unemployment in the country so that those – especially young people – who are unemployed are given an opportunity to work, to do something positive for their country”.

Read more in Daily Maverick: IEC’s R281m budget cut added to poll preparation problems

However, he acknowledged that the policy of recruiting unemployed people – perhaps without any previous work experience – was not without its flaws.

“But of course, when you take people who are unemployed and perhaps with no previous work experience, it does impact a bit the quality of the process you manage. Hence, our position has always been that you need – in the management echelons of voting stations – experienced staff,” Mamabolo said.

“It is not an either-or scenario, but it is a confluence of those two imperatives that must be brought together.” DM

Gallery

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