Voting: A quick guide to polling day process

2009-04-19 00:00

Take your ID book to the voting station

1. Join the queue. A queue walker will come up to you and check whether your ID is in order and whether you are at the correct voting station. If you are pregnant, infirm or disabled, the queue walker will take you to the front of the queue.

2. At the entrance of the voting station, the door controller will do one more check and let you know when to enter. The door controller ensures the voting station does not become too congested.

3. Your first stop is at the desk of the voters’ roll officer who will scan your ID barcode with a zip-zip scanner to find your name on the voters’ roll. Your name will then be crossed off the hard copy of the roll to indicate that you have voted.

4. Second stop is the inker, who will mark your thumb with black indelible ink — another indication that you have voted.

5. Third stop is at the ballot paper issuer who will give you two ballot papers — one for the national election and one for the provincial election.

The papers are differentiated by different colours (the national has blue wavy lines on the back; the provincial one is clear).

They will stamp the back of both ballot papers in front of you and show you how to fold the papers after you have made the cross.

6. A booth controller will usher you into a voting booth once it is empty. Inside will be a pencil you can use to mark your X.

7. A box controller will show you where to place your folded ballot paper. In most stations there will be two boxes — one for the national ballot and one for the provincial. If you make a mistake and post the ballot form in the wrong box, it its not likely to matter because they will be sorted out by their colours during the counting process. Some smaller voting stations may only have one box.

Checks and Balances:

The overall supervisor at a voting station is the presiding officer, who ensures the smooth running of the voting process and deals with problems and queries. To help him or her is a deputy presiding officer.

Each party is represented at the voting station by its agent. The agents keep an eye on all processes to ensure the voting is free and fair.

They are also present during the counting process and sign the results slip before the results of the election in the voting station are announced and posted on the door of the station.

Accredited independent observers from various organisations such as the United Nations, non-governmental organisations and observers from other countries will also be present within voting stations.

Statistical officers check the statistical information at the station, including the number of voters who have entered and the number of ballots cast. This information assists with the reconciliation of votes during the counting process.

On the day: What are the dos and don’ts?

Do’s and don’ts on election day (a guide from KZN provincial electoral officer Mawethu Mosery):

There are no legal provisions that put an end to political parties campaigning on election day, but there are certain limitations.

• There must be no campaigning or canvassing within the boundaries of the voting station;

• Outside of the boundaries of the voting station, parties can put up their tents and tables with their political paraphernalia.

• Voters can wear their party T-shirts in the voting station. However, Mosery warns if there is an individual in a party T-shirt who never gets to vote and is always in the queue, that person will be considered to be canvassing and will be asked to leave.

• Mosery said the IEC allows for a lot of concessions on humanitarian grounds.

Thus old people, the physically challenged, pregnant women and women with babies are allowed to go to the front of the queue.

“However, we have had an instance in the past when a baby spent the entire day at the voting station, being passed from one woman to another as they spotted the advantage of having a baby to get to the front of the queue. Electoral staff will be on the look-out for such situations.”

• On arriving drunk at the voting station, Mosery offered the following advice:

The Constitution says you can vote provided you are of sound mind.

If you are slightly tipsy and know why you are there and know what is going on, the electoral staff may let you carry on, but if you are in such a state that you don’t know where you are and what you are doing, you will be asked to leave.

The ANC’s Tokyo Sexwale said the best advice is to stay sober until after you have voted to ensure that you put your cross in the right place.

The ballot: what the paper looks like

The national ballot paper (left) has the parties listed in an order determined by a draw, so the parties whose names start with an ‘A’ are not at the top. Each party is represented by its official symbol and the face of its leader.

The provincial ballot paper looks similar, but there are some parties on the national ballot that are not on the provincial ballot and some on the KZN ballot that are not on the national ballot.

Each voter must mark a cross next to ONE party on the national ballot and ONE party on the provincial ballot, and then place the papers in their respective ballot boxes.

If a voter makes any other mark on the ballot — like writing their name or a comment — the paper is spoiled and will not be counted.

Counting: How is the tallying done?

How are the votes counted?

The ballot boxes never leave the voting station and are counted at the station immediately after voting ends at 9 pm. In most instances counting starts at around 9.30 pm.

Counting is done manually in South Africa; there is no electronic counting.

Counting is done in front of the party agents nominated by their parties to be their eyes and ears at the voting station and who have been registered as party agents with the Independent Electoral Commssion (IEC). Once counting is completed the results slip is filled in, duplicated and signed off by all party agents once they are satisfied that the process has been completed freely and fairly.

The presiding officer announces these provisional results at the voting station. One slip stays at the voting station and is posted on the door for all to see and check. The other slip gets sent to the IEC’s main operational centre in a tamper-proof envelope. There members of party liaison committees can check that the envelope has not been tampered with. The information is then captured and there are various verification and auditing processes before the final verified results are announced.

The IEC must announce the final verified results within seven days. KZN IEC electoral officer Mawethu Mosery said that South Africa has never gone beyond three days before announcing the final results.

“Legally we have to allow a two-day period for parties to lodge objections and we have found in the past that by the third day we are in a position to announce the results,” he said.

The IEC plans to release the final election results on Saturday, April 25.

The final step left will be the provincial seat allocation for parties. In KZN this is worked out by the voter turnout divided by the number of seats in the provincial legislature which currently stands at 80.

According to Mosery, in the last general election the figure worked out to 30 000 votes to be allocated a seat. He said that with a higher number of voters registered and a larger voter turnout expected, registered parties will probably need more than 30 000 votes in order to qualify for a seat.

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