Expats can now vote in SA elections abroad

For the first time since democratic elections in 1994, South African citizens living abroad will be allowed to register to vote in national elections. In the past they could only vote if they had registered in South Africa. They still cannot vote in provincial elections.

This is thanks to the passing of the Electoral Amendment Act last last year, and the publication of amendments to the regulations on the registration of voters.  

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) will work with the department of international relations and cooperation to register any foreign-based South Africans who do want to vote.  

To register, citizens can go to any one of South Africa's 124 embassies, high commissions or consulates-general around the world. They will need a valid identity document and a passport in order to register. South Africans living overseas, but who have registered to vote in previous elections, do not need to register again. 

Special vote
The process is immediately open and will take place until Friday, February 7 at the listed missions. Those who cannot register during working hours can enrol during two special registration weekends – January 18 and 19, and January 25 and 26.   

When it comes to election day, South African citizens abroad have to fill out a form to apply for a special vote. This can then be cast at any of the country's diplomatic missions abroad. The VEC10 form for this will only be available on the IEC's website once President Jacob Zuma declares the date of the election. Applications must then be made within 15 days.   

"The 2014 general election is a watershed for South Africa, as it marks the 20th anniversary of our democracy. The IEC takes great pride in enabling all South Africans to exercise their democratic right to vote, wherever they may be," said Mosotho Moepya, chief electoral officer of the IEC.

In the 2009 national election South Africans could vote if they were overseas, but only if they had previously registered to vote locally. In London over 7 000 voted, and over 1 200 voted in Canberra. 

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Sipho Kings
Sipho Kings is a former acting editor-in-chief of the Mail & Guardian

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