When, where and how: A first-time voter’s guide to the 2019 SA general elections

What advice should we share with first-time voters?
What advice should we share with first-time voters?

South Africa’s first ever democratic election was held in April of 1994 after years of liberation struggle. Black, White, Coloured and Asian South Africans stood peacefully in long queues for hours on end, some slept on the ground overnight to place their momentous vote – all because they had one common goal. 

Upon the ANC’s victory, in his election speech on 2 May 1994, Nelson Mandela explained, “The calm and tolerant atmosphere that prevailed during the elections depicts the type of South Africa we can build. It set the tone for the future. We might have our differences, but we are one people with a common destiny in our rich variety of culture, race and tradition.”

23 years later, as we steadily approach the 2019 general election, a brand-new generation will place their first ever vote for a better and brighter future for South Africa. So for our first-time voters fresh out of matric, or if you happen to be a parent of a young adult who’ll be navigating the polls this year, we’ve put together a guide to ensure that while they wait in the queues, they don’t get lost in the crowd.

Also read: For SA teens: a quick and easy guide to getting all your documents

Here’s our when, where and how to the 2019 general election. 


Voter registrations are closed now and the voting process itself will take place on Wednesday 8 May 2019

You would have had to be 18 years or older to register, and without registering, you will not be able to vote. 

Checking if you’re registered: 

For parents who’ve registered to vote in previous elections, or first-time voters who’ve forgotten if they have or haven’t registered, you can check your status on the voter’s roll by: 

  • Sending your ID number in an sms to 32810
  • Checking your registration status on the IEC portal here: Registration status.

Once you’ve registered, provided you haven’t moved and changed districts, you won’t be required to register again for elections to come. 


The SMS or IEC portal will provide you with your registration status along with your ward number and where you are to place your vote on the day. 

You can then find your voting station here: IEC Voting Station Finder.

For all voting stations, mobile voting stations, stopping points and times, click here: Stations and times.


When the day arrives you’ll need two things: 

  • Your ID book/smartcard ID
  • The application sticker pasted into your ID book or on smartcad when you applied for registration. This will be scanned to check your status on the voter’s roll. If you registered years ago and since got a smartcard, take your old ID book with the barcode sticker along. 

On the day, once your barcode has been scanned, you’ll be given two ballot papers: one for the national election and another for the provincial election. Head into a voting booth, ensure no-one is watching, and make your mark. It’s as simple as that. 

Draw your cross neatly in the box next to your chosen party, and don't scribble or scrawl, as this will be counted as a spoilt vote.

Also read: Politics in schools? Yes, if we want our children to be active citizens

A few more things before we go 

Using the IEC portal 

You can create a profile online and use the IEC portal to click, check and confirm your address online. It’s a nifty tool that’ll provide you with all of the above, making it a lot easier for you to navigate the system, while possibly helping you avoid the queues on the day. 

Watch the video below for a step-by-step guide and more information, and click here to create a profile

Applying for a special vote 

If you’ve registered and aren’t able to make it to your voting station on the day, you can apply for a special vote – a vote on a predeteremined day before 8 May. 

Click here to apply: Special Vote Online Application

A few tips and reminders: 

  • Before anything else, check your status. Make sure you’re registered to vote and where you’re supposed to place your vote. 
  • Make sure you have all the documentation you need – it'll either be your ID book or you smartcard ID, as well as your sticker.
  • Do your homework. Make sure you know about every party you can vote for, and ensure you read up enough to equip yourself with the knowledge to make an informed decision on the party/parties you do vote for.
  • Make sure you’re available within the times stipulated by your voting station. On 25 February President Cyril Ramaphosa declared 8 May a public holiday throughout South Africa, but if you are working for any reason, make sure you’re available to vote, keeping in mind the queues do tend to take some time.
  • On that note, take snacks, some water, a hat and lots of sunblock. Even if it looks overcast in the morning, you’re probably going to be queuing for quite some time. Make sure you stay hydrated and lather on that sunscreen. If it's rainy, well, take something warm and a umbrella!
  • And finally, as excited as you may be, you absolutely cannot take any photos of your vote in the booth – it is an offense to reveal your or anyone else’s vote. Wait until you’re outside the booth to snap your inked thumb or pose for that selfie. #ivoted 

Chat back:

What has your experience been of voting day in the past? Is there any other advice you think we should share with first-time voters? Tell us and we may publish it.

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