ConCourt reserves judgment in IEC voters' roll saga

2016-05-09 20:01

Johannesburg – The Constitutional Court reserved judgment late on Monday night in the matter relating to the Independent Electoral Commission's (IEC) urgent application for leave to appeal an earlier Electoral Court ruling that it provide the addresses of registered voters to candidates contesting elections.

The IEC filed an application with the Constitutional Court in April, asking it to set aside an Electoral Court ruling which it said could see millions of people disqualified from voting.

On November 30 last year, the Constitutional Court ruled that the 2013 Tlokwe by-elections were not free and fair.

The court ruled that all new voters who registered had to provide details of their address, or sufficient details, of where they lived, to place them in a voting district.

The by-elections were scheduled to be re-run in February this year. The Electoral Court, however, halted them at the last minute after six independent candidates complained that more than 4 198 addresses were missing from the new voters' roll. Subsequently several other by-elections around the country were postponed.

The IEC was arguing that, should the Electoral Court judgment stand, the August 3 local government elections would not be able to go ahead. This was because it could not provide addresses for 7.9 million voters who were registered but whose addresses were not on the IEC's system.

The ANC agreed with the Electoral Commission and supported the relief sought in the application.

The DA and IFP opposed the application for leave to appeal.

Anton Katz, for the DA, argued that the court should order the relief sought in the direct access application but limit it only to the 2016 local government elections.

Katz suggested that the entire country did not have the problems facing the Tlokwe district and argued that the IEC should be able to deploy all of its members to one area to resolve the problem.

Kemp J Kemp, representing the IFP, opposed the direct access application proposing that a provisional balloting system be used by the Electoral Commission to solve the issue.

He suggested that voters be allowed to vote and that the matter regarding the missing addresses be balanced by checking the information that voters did have available.

Missing addresses

Kemp argued that it didn't seem impossible for the IEC to collect information about the missing addresses in rural areas stating that people should be able to say where they lived.

He said that the IEC, according to their affidavit, had already identified voters who did not have addresses as well as those with incomplete addresses.  

Wim Trengove, for the IEC, argued it was not the commission's job to verify addresses, although it had always been obliged to confirm that voters were registered in the correct district.

"We accept that the IEC may only register voters in districts where they are ordinarily residents," Trengove said.

"A name on the roll without an address does not imply irregular registration."

He said that before 2003, the IEC was not required to keep addresses of voters and had no duty to go back and find the addresses of those people already on the roll.

The IEC came under fire from Justice Sisi Khampepe who said she couldn’t understand how the IEC couldn't obtain the addresses over the past 13 years.

Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng also pondered the idea of Statistics South Africa working together with the IEC in obtaining the missing addresses, however the parties questioned the validity of the information from StatsSA.

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