Voter turnout trending down, could be lowest in 25 years

2019-05-09 16:57
A thumb marked with indelible ink during Wednesday
(Photo by Gallo Images/Lefty Shivambu)

South Africa's political parties differ on a lot of things, but there is one thing they agree on during elections, and that's getting as many people to cast their ballots.

They all realise that the higher the number of people who go to polling stations on voting day, the higher their support may be.

Voter turnout is one of the key aspects of any election, with commentators and politicians seeing it as a level of representation of the will of the people.

As of midday, the IEC's data was showing that voter turnout for this year's elections was at 65.47%. At that hour, 8 103 of the 22 925 voting districts had completed their counting of votes.

Rain and cold weather in a number of provinces on Wednesday sparked concern, with political parties fearing that people would stay away from the polls, avoiding standing in long queues for hours during inclement conditions. However, it's still too soon to conclude why a larger percentage of voters would have stayed home during Wednesday's polls. Voter apathy and a disillusionment with the parties on offer may also have played a role.

In 1994, when the first democratic elections were run by an interim commission, it was difficult to gauge the turnout of voters, as millions of black South Africans were voting for the first time. Voters weren't expected to register to cast their ballots and thus it was impossible to determine a voter turnout percentage.

In 1999, with a base of 18 172 751 registered voters, the final turnout was 89.3%.

As is the trend in most young democracies, voter turnout dropped five years later during the 2004 election, but the final percentage was still significantly high at 76.73%. The real number of registered voters increased to 20 674 923.

Five years later, in 2009, the number of registered voters jumped to 23 181 997. The voter turnout bucked the trend, increasing to 77.3%.

The decline resumed in 2014, when turnout dropped to 74.48%. The base of registered voters that year was 25 388 082.

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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