/ 22 April 2009

Ballot boxes ‘too full’ in Gauteng

Voter turnout in Gauteng has been so high that ballot boxes were too full, the provincial electoral commission said on Wednesday.

”As early as 5.30am, there were queues forming at some of our voting stations in the province,” Gauteng chief electoral officer Sy Mamabolo told reporters in Johannesburg.

He estimated that there would be a turnout of more than 80%.

Although voting had gone smoothly in the province, ballot boxes were becoming too full and election officials were in talks with political parties about a safe process to empty the boxes.

”Ballot papers are fine — we printed more than 12-million for Gauteng and there are 5,5-million registered voters, but, yes, there are problems with ballot boxes,” said Mamabolo.

”The commission is in discussions with political parties to agree to a process whereby the ballot boxes can be freed up,” he added.

Earlier, Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) chairperson Brigalia Bam said there were ”very, very long queues” in Gauteng.

”So long that in some areas they ran short of ballot papers … papers have been sent [to replenish],” said Bam.

Presiding electoral officers have been told to speed up the voting process by using a multiple queue system.

Turning to the voting process, Mamabolo said that in the interests of transparency, party agents were allowed to view the voters’ roll table.

”They can observe as the voters are crossed off,” he said.

Party agents were also allowed to observe the inking table as well as the ballot issue table, he added.

Provincial electoral commissioner Terry Tselane said voting hours in Gauteng would not be extended beyond the poll closing time of 9pm.

”It is my opinion that by 9pm every registered voter would have voted,” he said.

However, if voters were still in queues at voting stations after 9pm, the presiding officers would allow them to vote, he added. — Sapa