- The Electoral Commission of South Africa will implement an electronic voter registration system.
- There will be safeguards and further announcements will be made.
- The voter turnout for this election is uncertain in light of Covid-19.
The Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) will implement electronic voter registration ahead of the local government elections on 27 October.
The IEC briefed the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs on Tuesday and MPs were concerned that there would only be one registration weekend. The committee was also concerned about voter turnout.
Chief electoral officer Sy Mamabolo said the commission was considering additional voter registration modalities.
"We can confirm that there will be an electronic registration modality introduced," he said.
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Safeguards will support this to ensure that people rightfully register.
He added that the commission would make further announcements in this regard.
Mamabolo said voter turnout in South Africa was interesting.
"We are experiencing a decline in national and provincial elections, but that phenomenon is not prevalent in local government elections."
In 2011, he said, the IEC was able to improve voter turnout from 48% to 58% and retained that turnout for 2016.
"As I sit here now, I don't know what the impact of Covid is going to be on turnout. If all things were equal, in other words, if there were no Covid, as a commission, we would have pushed very hard through our programmes, voter education communication programmes and so on, to push that into the 60% arena because we think that would be very important for the country to move turnout with every ensuing election to increase," he said.
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"But we don't know how people are going to react to the Covid reality and how it is going to discourage, as it were, people from turning out."
"That does not mean we won't have a programme to explain the safety measures that we are introducing at the voting stations. We will have campaigns to assuage people and assure them that it will be safe to come out and so on."
IEC chairperson Glen Mashinini said: "We must remember, as a country, we don't have what we call compulsory voting and participation, where if you don't participate like in other countries, you can get fined. So that has an impact on the voter turnout and participation."
"The other thing we don't have control over is... that there are voters now who have been discouraged [for] various reasons from participating in the elections."
He said in 1994 and 1999, the commission had "deep pockets" to promote elections. That is no longer the case so they have to be creative. This includes investing in social media because young people are more likely to be informed on these platforms than by the evening news.