Fewer young people have registered to vote

2019-04-03 21:58
South Africa's 2019 elections logo. Picture: Palesa Dlamini

South Africa's 2019 elections logo. Picture: Palesa Dlamini

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The number of young people who have registered to vote in the May general elections is down substantially from 2014, despite population growth, according to a GroundUp report.

The Parliamentary Monitoring Group (PMG) expressed concern on Wednesday that the number of 18- to 19-year-olds on the 2019 voters' roll was 341 236.

In 2014, it was 646 313, meaning the number of new voters has dropped by nearly half (47%).

The number of registered 20- to 29-year-olds has dropped 4% from 5 759 236 to 5 299 297.

When taking into account that the population has grown by approximately 7.5% over the past five years, the drop is even more profound.

In January, GroundUp reported that the voter registration rate was down from 2014 (but not the absolute number of voters who registered).

But PMG's report indicates that the absolute numbers are actually down among youth (overall, including all age groups, registration is up, but not as a proportion of the population).

The reason for the drop is unclear.

PMG quotes elections analyst Ebrahim Fakir, who said that there is a growing tendency for younger people globally to participate less in formal political processes.

"This doesn't necessarily mean they are agnostic, disengaged or apathetic, it simply means that they express themselves politically in other ways, such as direct action, protests, cultural forums and so on," said Fakir.

The PMG notes that the huge drop among 18- to 19-year-olds was not mentioned in a recent  Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) report to Parliament's Home Affairs Portfolio Committee. This "is a concern for the PMG as this prevents Parliament from performing effective oversight," the organisation stated.

At the time of publication, questions sent by GroundUp to the PMG had not yet been answered. This article will be updated when we get the IEC's response.

However, the PMG does refer to a new web-based application system which was piloted in February.

The PMG quotes IEC official Granville Abrahams saying that the new technology should help improve voter registration among the youth in future elections.

Read more on:    iec  |  elections 2019
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