An electoral official carries a voting box in Claremont, Cape Town, May 8 2019. Picture: RODGER BOSCH / AFP
An electoral official carries a voting box in Claremont, Cape Town, May 8 2019. Picture: RODGER BOSCH / AFP

The lack of ballot papers at several voting stations in the DA stronghold in the centre of Cape Town and in the northern suburbs of the city meant that voting came to a standstill and voters decided to go back home.

The DA now has to blitz voters with messages urging them to return to voting stations. “It is affecting turnout,” a DA source said.

There was a delay of about three hours at nine voting stations in ward 77 including Tamboerskloof, Oranjezicht, Gardens, Vredehoek and the City Bowl because the person who was delivering the ballot papers had an accident, a DA source said. The Parow civic centre in the northern suburbs was also affected by a shortage of ballot papers.

More troubling was that only 800 ballot papers were eventually delivered for each polling station in ward 77 and only 200 in Parow, which was insufficient to cater for the number of voters. The DA has lodged a complaint with the Electoral Commission of SA (IEC)  about the shortage.

The DA sources said the problem started at about 11am in the city centre but already at 7.15am, shortly after voting stations opened, there was a delay at the voting station at Westerford High School in Rondebosch, because the presiding officer had forgotten to bring a box of ballot papers. The delay lasted about an hour.

Wait not acceptable

IEC provincial electoral officer Courtney Sampson conceded during a media briefing on Wednesday evening that there had been a problem of a shortage of ballot papers at some polling stations, but did not think the delay in delivering them was as long as three hours.

“The wait has not been inordinate but it was not acceptable,” Sampson said.

However, he conceded that the delay had caused “quite a bit of frustration” but gave the assurance that ballot papers had been, or were in the process of being, delivered.

“Roughly speaking,” Sampson said, voter turnout was running at between 20% and 25% — or 600 000 of the 3.1-million registered voters.

Sampson said the rain was affecting where people voted — they were going to the closest voting station rather than to the correct one. He believed that by 3.30pm, turnout was looking “reasonable” but cautioned that the final outcome would depend on the outlook for further rain. He said that he was “cautiously optimistic” about the results for the day.

Another problem has been the shortage of application forms required to be filled in by people who turn up at the wrong voting station (where they were not registered), Sampson said. The forms have to be completed in order to be able to vote there. He said this was a widespread problem that had not been anticipated and could be attributed to the fact that the message went out that people could vote anywhere they liked.

The remaining challenge was to ensure that there was sufficient lighting for when it got dark.

TimesLIVE takes you through the country on election day, May 8 2019. Subscribe to TimesLIVE here: