Read IEC's full statement here:
COUNTING OF VOTES BEGINS AS VOTING ENDS
Tshwane (National Results Operations Centre) – Except at those stations where voters were still waiting to cast their ballots, voting stations throughout South Africa have begun closing their doors and switching focus to the critical process of counting votes.
The Electoral Commission is extremely pleased with the smooth progress of voting today despite isolated incidents where voting operations were adversely affected by inclement weather, community unrest, power outages and some logistical challenges.
Strong thunderstorms were reported in the early evening in the Free State where 16 temporary voting stations in Manguang were blown down by strong winds and where heavy rain affected the conditions underfoot.In Nelson Mandela Bay and Craddock in the Eastern Cape heavy rain and winds also affected operations in more than 30 temporary voting stations.
In a number of areas voting after dark was affected by power outages including in KwaZulu-Natal (specifically Umlazi), Limpopo (Vuwani and Giyani) and Gauteng (parts of Johannesburg).The nature of the power outages was not immediately apparent but included instances of cable theft, weather related outages and other unscheduled interruptions.
The Electoral Commission has been working closely with ESKOM and local municipalities to rapidly restore power in affected areas.Voting stations have also been equipped with some emergency LED lighting and lighting provided by the COGTA as back-up.
Counting takes place within the voting station in front of party agents and observers.The first step in the process is to check the seals and open the ballot boxes. The ballots contained therein are then reconciled with those issued, any remaining unused ballots and any ballots which may have been cancelled.
Ballot boxes containing special votes are also opened and the contents verified against lists of authorized special voters before being added to the count.Once the reconciliation is completed, the marked ballots are sorted into piles according to the party voted for.
For ease of counting, the ballots are grouped together in batches of tens and hundreds.Where the choice of the voter cannot be immediately and easily determined, these ballots are set aside for further scrutiny.
Where the intention of the voter is then determined the ballots are added to those party piles. Where the intention of the voter cannot be reasonably determined – or where the ballot is obviously spoiled – these are grouped together as spoiled ballots.
The Presiding Officer makes the finaldetermination of this.The ballots for each party are counted and recounted to ensure accuracy and the results captured on two duplicate results slips which reflect the voting station, the number of cast ballots, the number of votes for each party and the number of spoiled ballots.
The results slips are signed by party agents present who are also encouraged to record the details of the results for themselves (including by taking a photograph of the results slip).
One result slip is then posted on the door of the voting station while the other is taken by the Presiding Officer to the local IEC office where it is scanned and the data entered into the results system using a double capture system to minimize any human error.
Once audited by independent auditors, the results are released and aresimultaneously visible to all those with access to the results system – including Electoral Commission, political parties, observers and the media.
Parties can verify the captured results against their copy of the original results slip to ensure accuracy.
The length of the process depends on a range of factors including the number of votes cast at the voting station, the number of political parties contesting the ballots, and the number of clearly marked or unclearly marked ballots.
The conditions of the voting station – including whether it is a tent or permanent structure and the quality of the lighting and facilities also greatly affect the length of the process.
Once the final results are posted, all materials from the voting station are packed and transported under secure transport to capture sites where they are logged and stored.
By law all ballots must be securely retained for six months in case of objections.The first results from voting districts with the smallest number of voters are expected to reflect on the results system before midnight tonight.