Biggest headaches for Western Cape IEC: Voting stations running out of ballot papers and the rain

2019-05-08 20:08
elections 2019
Elections posters adorn a lamp pole at the entrance to Barberton, Mpumalanga  ~ Kyle Cowan

Voters not voting at the station where they were registered and the rain that fell at times over the Western Cape left them having to wait for ballot papers to arrive at some stations in the province. 

This proved to be the biggest headache for Western Cape electoral officer Courtney Sampson, who also experienced this when he went to vote.

The voting stations at Tygerberg High School in Parow, in Cape Town's northern suburbs, and at Jan van Riebeeck Primary School in Gardens, in the CBD, were two of the voting stations affected.

Lack of voter forms

At a media briefing on Wednesday afternoon at the provincial elections operational centre, Sampson said they weren't quite prepared for how widespread the phenomena of people choosing to vote at voting stations where they were not registered was going to be. 

"I think a lot of people did it just because they can," Sampson said. 

"The message that went out is not that you must apply for a vote. The message that went out is that you can vote anywhere. And unfortunately, we are now paying the price for that."

He said Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) staff were running around to ensure enough of the voter forms voters were available. 

"I want to assure you, we've sufficient ballot papers. We've got enough ballot papers to have another election. But what happens is that you apportion ballot papers per voting station. Now, if you found yourself in a situation like I found myself in today, where the station where you are runs out of ballot papers, you now have a situation where the IEC must make sure that ballot papers arrive there. And no ballot papers move around without police escort," Sampson explained.

"So you get the ballot papers ready for distribution to the voting station, and then you wait for the police to arrive, and then it takes a bit of time. And it really creates quite a bit of frustration, with people who came there with a specific idea to finish, and to get done."

Sampson said the presiding officer at his voting station handled the situation well, and he complimented him. With a laugh, he added that the presiding officer only later realised he was the provincial electoral officer. 

Rain impact

"It seems from reports that we're getting that the rain is affecting the people just a little bit, in fact, in terms of where they vote," Sampson said.

"No one is going to try and run around and find the proper voting station where they ought to vote. They are going to go to the closest one because they don’t want to be in line for too long, they don’t want to get wet, and so forth. So at the moment, our greatest challenge is the moving around of ballot papers to voting stations where they are running low and running out."

Sampson said running out of ballot papers didn’t seem to be a widespread problem. 

"The fact of the matter is that there are a few voting stations where this is a problem and the effect of it is unfortunate, that people have to stand and wait for those ballot papers to arrive before they can vote.

"The wait has not been inordinate, but any wait is unacceptable." 

In a statement, national IEC spokesperson Kate Bapela said: "Reports have been also received of temporary shortages of ballot papers at some voting stations where distribution plans were not fully implemented. A factor which contributed to shortages was the ability of voters to cast their votes at any voting station in their province, in line with Section 24 (a).

"In most cases, shortages were rapidly resolved by the redistribution of ballots and reserve stock, and voting resumed quickly."

Sampson said he was "cautiously optimistic" that the day would go well and that there would be a reasonable voter turnout.

"At the end of the day, it is going to be about the result slips coming in. And, by tomorrow, we are hoping that we'll have all the results slips in, so that we can begin the process of capturing the will of the people of the Western Cape."

Find everything you need to know about the 2019 National and Provincial Government Elections at our News24 Elections site, including the latest news and detailed, interactive maps for how South Africa has voted over the past 3 elections. Make sure your News24 app is updated to access all our elections coverage in one place.

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