ActionSA is taking the IEC to court over the omission of its name from ballot papers for the November 1 elections. File photo: BLOOMBERG/WALDO SWIEGERS
ActionSA is taking the IEC to court over the omission of its name from ballot papers for the November 1 elections. File photo: BLOOMBERG/WALDO SWIEGERS

Political newcomer ActionSA has taken its battle with the Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) about ballot papers to the Electoral Court as the country prepares for local elections in November 1.

The party, angered by the omission of its name on the final draft ballot papers, is asking the court to reprint new ones that reflect its name next to the logo, arguing that its constitutional rights and those of potential voters are violated by the omission.

Senior counsel Wendel Bloem said on Wednesday that papers were filed overnight and the party expects to get its day in court soon.

“We are asking the court to direct that the commission must, without delay, include the name of the applicant on the 2021 municipal ballot paper and that the commission must destroy copies of ballot papers already published, reissue and reprint them, including the full name of the applicant,” Bloem said.

The commission says ActionSA failed to add its “abbreviated name” when it initially registered as a party.

“The absence of the abbreviated name of ActionSA on the ward ballots is because, at the point of registering as a party, ActionSA elected not to register an abbreviated name or acronym,” sad IEC spokesperson Kate Bapela. “ActionSA ... responded with a ‘Not Applicable’ in the space where the political party was required to indicate its abbreviated name.”

ActionSA president Herman Mashaba argued the party doesn’t have an abbreviated name because its full name was already compliant with the IEC’s eight-character limit on abbreviated party names and thus could always be used in full.

ActionSA national chairperson Michael Beaumont made a similar contention, arguing that the forms it was presented with made no mention of what would appear on ballot papers.

“In section 15 of the Electoral Commission Act, it says ‘abbreviated name, if any’. In other words, both these forms and the law envisions a situation where a party might choose not to be abbreviated,” Beaumont said.

“We understand that to mean that we have chosen an eight-character name, please use ActionSA whenever you represent the name of the organisation. What the IEC is saying is by arguing that, we waive the right to exist on the ballot paper by name.

“There is nothing in law or form that says this is how a ballot paper is constructed, so that there may be ambiguity we accept — but when it’s raised with the IEC immediately, at a time when it’s easy to remedy, and the answer is no, where is the voter in that decision?” he added.   

The party says if the error is not fixed, it will not only affect voters’ ability to make a properly informed choice, but also the election as a whole, as required by the law. 

“Organisations that have been around for relatively less lengthy periods of time [than older ones] are harder to identify and that is why they cannot be impeded by having the most important identifier omitted,” Beaumont said.

Political newcomer ActionSA says it is taking legal action against the IEC due to ballot papers not including the party's name in the abbreviated section.

It is the second time in recent weeks that the party finds itself at odds with the IEC. Last week, ActionSA found that some of its candidates had not been included on the ballot papers — an error which was fixed in a matter of hours.  

Despite this being corrected, Mashaba has accused the commission of sabotage. “This is a concerted effort by the IEC to sabotage our participation in this election. But I want to assure South Africans that we are going to participate and we’re not going to participate as a logo, but as ActionSA,” Mashaba said.

The party also seeking a cost order against the IEC because it has been “unreasonable”.

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