Electoral Commission of SA tape demarcates a polling station in the Bo Kaap, Cape Town, on May 8 2019. Picture: AFP/ RODGER BOSCH
Electoral Commission of SA tape demarcates a polling station in the Bo Kaap, Cape Town, on May 8 2019. Picture: AFP/ RODGER BOSCH

A discrepancy in some figures from the 2019 general elections has raised alarm over possible voter fraud, and the DA has asked for a full audit of Gauteng’s voting stations. 

Business Day queried data from regional and provincial Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) offices after questions were raised of possible double voting.

The elections have been riddled with fraud allegations since voting stations closed on May 8. The incidents range from voters claiming on social media to have voted more than once, to arrests, now said to be around 20. This mainly relates to the ink with which voters were marked — as required by the Electoral Act — which washes off easily.

Importantly, the figures queried by Business Day, or the discrepancies, do not amount to voter fraud, an offence that could result in up to five years in prison or a fine. But they do reinforce some allegations in the public domain.

At Rayton in northern Gauteng, the voting tent at the Hillside sports ground recorded a voter turnout of 281%. Only 263 people were registered to vote, but 741 national votes were cast. The high turnout itself is not alarming, except that only 103 voters completed Section 24 forms — the form a voter is required to complete in order to cast a ballot at a voting station at which they are not registered. Even if every single registered voter at Hillside made their mark on May 8, it leaves a question mark over 375 votes.

The IEC’s deputy CEO for electoral operations, Masego Sheburi, was unable to explain the discrepancies. He suggested the possibility that the Hillside voting station, located in a densely populated area, could have run out of Section 24 forms.

Sheburi, however, undertook to follow up the issue with the presiding officers to determine the reasons behind votes that were unaccounted for at four voting stations in question.

Responding to the figures at Hillside, the DA’s Mike Moriarty said, “that’s shocking”. He confirmed that the DA had asked the IEC, through its lawyers, for a full audit of all of Gauteng’s voting stations.

In the Western Cape, a total of 1,216 people made their mark at Mary’s Creche in Khayelitsha, Cape Town. A total of 363 people were registered to vote there and an additional 828 people completed Section 24 forms. That leaves 25 votes without explanation.

In KwaZulu-Natal, the province where police have confirmed the highest number of arrests for alleged voter fraud, two similar incidents occurred. At the Waterval Hall station near Newcastle, 189 more votes were cast than the total number of voters registered there and the ones who completed Section 24 forms combined. In Eshowe, north of Durban, the voting station at the Seventh Day Adventist church had 145 votes unaccounted for.

Around 640 of the 22,924 voting stations across SA recorded a voter turnout of more than 100%. This in itself is not irregular as voters can vote at almost any voting station within their province of residence, and even in another province in which case they will only be able to cast a national vote. In some instances, a high turnout seemed entirely logical especially where both the registration numbers and total votes ultimately cast are very low such as at the Nossob Reserve voting station in the Northern Cape. Here, the high turnout and low registration can also be due to the fact that most of the votes likely came from visitors at the reserve.

Business Day was unable to confirm the Section 24 numbers for most parts of SA, including parts of Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Limpopo.

Voters and politicians have said the indelible ink placed on the left thumbs of voters could easily be removed using cleaning products. IEC officials have said it is possible to vote more than once but doubts it would influence the election outcome.

While these votes are unlikely to have a material effect on the outcome of the elections, the majority of stations that recorded a voter turnout more than 100% are based in Gauteng.

Moriarty explained “a seat could have been transferred from party A to party B” if the difference turns out to be wide enough. And in a province such as Gauteng — where the ANC secured a majority by a single seat — Moriarty insisted a second look is needed.

Sheburi was unable to comment on the letter as he had not personally seen it.

The IEC has since admitted to “negligible risks” of possible voter fraud after the statistician-general’s analysis of 1,020 voting stations identified 13 districts where Section 24 votes were significantly higher than those in the ward. Section 24 votes were “consistent with previous elections”, it said in a statement on Thursday.

The IEC, however, said that these isolated cases will not affect the outcome of the election. It added that the statistician-general’s report has been shared with all political parties.

vandermerwep@businesslive.co.za