IEC banks on the youth

2013-11-06 13:47

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The Independent Electoral Commission is confident that more than two million new voters, mostly the youth, will register for the 2014 general elections this weekend.

Despite the fact that 8.9 million eligible voters have not registered to cast their votes, IEC chairperson Pansy Tlakula believes young people who will be voting for the first time next year will register.

Tlakula has also denounced speculation that the IEC’s registration drive will see many young people ignoring the call to register. She believes many people will be surprised by the result of the registration drive.

More than 22 000 voting stations will be open to all South Africans this weekend to register or re-register to vote if they have changed their places of residence.

Registration will take place this Saturday and Sunday between 8am and 5pm. A total of 45 795 election officials will be deployed to assist voters to register.

Tlakula believes the commission’s communication campaign to urge people, especially the youth, has been a success as the IEC has visited schools and tertiary institutions to encourage young people to vote.

“We have been all over the country teaching young people about the importance of voting and how many lives were lost in the fight for democracy so that all South Africans could vote for the government of their choice. It is an important message because young people need to know that they have a right to exercise their right to vote,” said Tlakula.

The youth accounts for the bulk of voters in South Africa, but, worryingly, only 8.7% of eligible youngsters between 18 and 19 are registered to vote.

“Through this registration drive, the Electoral Commission hopes to increase registration to 80% of the voting age population – in line with levels of previous elections. This would require two million additional voters to register,” said Tlakula.

She expressed some concern about incidents of political intolerance in a number of areas but said the IEC would work with security agencies to ensure there were no disturbances.

Tlakula dismissed suggestions that commissioners were at loggerheads because of Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s report into the questionable acquisition of the IEC’s new building in Centurion.

“We are focused only on ensuring that the elections are run smoothly. That is our main focus,” said Tlakula.

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