An Election Commission worker tears a ballot paper at a voting station during local municipal elections. Picture: EPA/KEVIN SUTHERLAND
An Election Commission worker tears a ballot paper at a voting station during local municipal elections. Picture: EPA/KEVIN SUTHERLAND

The 2019 national elections could still be challenged based on fraudulent or fake addresses, even though the Constitutional Court has granted the electoral commission an extension to complete the voters' roll.

The elections  are set to be highly contested, as opposition parties  try to push the ANC below 50% of the support in key provinces such as Gauteng.

On Thursday the Constitutional Court granted the Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) until November 29 2019 to complete addresses on the voters’ roll. This has now given the commission time until after the elections to complete its work with regard to the addresses.

The IEC asked the court in August to extend its deadline to November 29 2019 after it failed to meet its initial June deadline to ensure the voters’ roll was complete with  addresses for all voters.

The June deadline was set after the court found in 2016 that the absence of this information was unconstitutional. The apex court had earlier ordered an interim extension until November 30 2018, while it determined whether a further extension should be granted.

The court’s order is, however, subject to conditions, which include that the IEC furnish the court with bi-monthly reports as from January 31 2019 to September 30 2019. The reports would  set out, among others, the number of post-2003 addresses still outstanding, the steps taken to obtain the addresses and any matter it may consider necessary to report on.

Crucially the court ordered the IEC to say in its reports how it will indicate on the certified voters’ roll which voters have incomplete, inadequate or no addresses. It will also have to say how voters falling into this group will be required to supply their addresses before voting on election day.

“This will (a) minimise the risk of fraud on voting day, and (b) leave the door open for election challenges arising from fraudulent or fake addresses,” the court said.

The DA’s Mike Moriarty, who had opposed the IEC’s application, said the party noted that the court did not accede to the request the electoral commission had made which would have ensured that the election results  could not be challenged based on an insufficient voters' roll.

“On the face of it, if there are problems with the voters’ roll because of the lack of addresses, the elections can be challenged,” Moriarty said.

Moriarty said marking voters who had incomplete or no addresses should enable parties to look out for those particular voters, as they  were the ones that could be problematic.

Moriarty, addressing the IEC’s argument that a national election was not as vulnerable as a local government poll to the possibility of electoral fraud, said there were certain provinces in the coming elections where the differences were marginal, and where the difference could be a seat.

“The possibility of a few thousand people committing electoral fraud could upset the outcome of a particular province,” Moriarty said.

The IEC welcomed the judgment, saying it would “greatly” assist the commission in ensuring that the elections were free and fair.

It said it remained committed to meeting the conditions set by the court, including that voters without addresses provide their address  before voting as well as periodical reporting.