IEC presses ahead to register ‘homeless’ voters
Experts warn that amending the Electoral Act to accommodate voters without proof of address could lead to manipulation
The Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) is set to push for an amendment of the Electoral Act to ensure that some 1.6-million voters without addresses are not removed from the voters’ roll.
While the measure has largely been welcomed by political parties, there are concerns that in a tightly contested provincial election — which provinces such as Gauteng are likely to have —such an amendment may leave room for manipulation.
In 2016, the Constitutional Court ruled that the the voters’ roll as it stood was inconsistent with the rule of law. The failure of the IEC to record the addresses of voters was found to be unconstitutional and invalid. The IEC was given 18 months to fix the defect. It had not done so by the court-prescribed deadline and has applied for an extension.
While IEC insiders are confident that their request for an extension will be granted, the Constitutional Court has yet to rule on the matter. It is expected to do so by the end of November.
However, IEC chief electoral officer Sy Mamabolo says an amendment to the Act would “create a different voting procedure”, that would allow the 1.6-million voters without addresses to cast their ballot.
These voters will be allowed to provide their addresses and a “determination” would then be made whether they would be allowed to vote in the provincial election. Mamabolo said this would go a long way towards preventing them from being removed from the roll.
“ The amendment will help to prevent that, but also the amendment will ensure that we comply with the court order, that before they vote they must give us an address,” he said.
While it would allow legitimate voters who have not yet supplied their addresses to vote, it does pose a slight risk, potentially allowing for manipulation — especially if a large number of those are “ghost voters”, are deceased or no longer in the country.
There may be genuine voters among them but there may also be ghost voters.Lawson Naidoo, Casac's executive secretary
Executive secretary of the Council for the Advancement of the SA Constitution, Lawson Naidoo, said with such an amendment, the IEC had to make sure it had mechanisms in place to ensure that it can authenticate these voters.
“There would have to be some sort of mechanism to verify [those] 1.6-million voters, if you can’t get the addresses, you would have to be able to verify that those voters actually exist. There may be genuine voters among them but there may also be ghost voters,” he said.
The amendment bill was published for comment at the weekend. It will be further discussed by parliament’s home affairs committee next week.