/ 30 April 2014

Elections: Expat voting ‘going smoothly’

Elections: Expat Voting 'going Smoothly'

In spite of concerns that expats voting abroad on Wednesday would be hampered by a supposed government miscommunication, the department of international relations and cooperations (Dirco) said it had received no complaints from any of its embassies or consulates abroad.

“Of those embassies that have now closed, none have reported any problems [with voting]. Some are still open, but we have received no complaints from those either,” said Dirco spokesperson Clayson Monyela on Wednesday evening.

More than 26 000 expats in more than 116 countries registered to vote abroad.

In 2009, the Constitutional Court ruled that expats could vote so long as they notified the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) of their intention to do so. This followed a challenge by the Freedom Front Plus.

“People voted in large numbers. So far, voting has gone smoothly,” said Monyela. He added that the total number of registered voters abroad that had actually voted would only be released by the IEC after the release of the results.

According to the Times, some registered voters complained that government had not informed them timeously of all the steps they were required to take in order to vote abroad. Monyela said that if voters had encountered problems, this was probably because they failed to fill in the VEC10 form, a requirement for voting abroad.

Yet some voters claimed that they were only alerted to this requirement late in the process.

A South African living in Zambia, who requested anonymity, and six of her friends, were unable to vote on Wednesday.

“I’m more confused than ever about what we were meant to do in the first place. I registered at the South African Embassy when we were supposed to. There was a sign up saying that if you have ever registered in South Africa you didn’t have to register in Zambia again. I asked the guy to please just register me in Zambia anyway as this made no sense. Filled in a form, and I was told I was registered, even had a little paper saying so.

“Then we heard rumours beginning of the week about a VEC10 form that needed to be filled in online and that we couldn’t vote if we didn’t register online and filled in this form. None of this communicated to me or any of my friends here in Lusaka,” she told the Mail & Guardian.

She said she was told this was the fault of the IEC. The IEC was not immediately available for comment on Wednesday.

The deadline for submitting the VEC10 form was March 12, while Wednesday was the only day set aside for expat voting. 

However, other voters said the registration and voting process was easy.

Michaela Baker, a South African in Sydney, Australia, told the M&G that voting was “worth it” in spite of the nine-hour trip she had to take to cast her ballot. The only voting station in Australia was in Canberra.

“The process was pretty straightforward. The High Commission in Canberra were lovely – everyone was very friendly. There was almost no queue. On the whole, I found it a joyful experience. I had a nine-hour round trip on the train to get there, plus travel between my place and Sydney station and Canberra station and the High Commission and had to take a day off work, but am really glad I did it,” Baker said.

In London, voters waited in line for more than two hours on Wednesday afternoon.

But in New York, voters reportedly trickled into the voting station, according to SABC correspondent Sherwin Bryce-Pease.

According to the IEC, more than 116 missions across the globe would host voters on Wednesday, with the total process spanning 33 hours. Voting began in Australia and will end in Los Angeles at 6am on Thursday, South African time.

The largest voting station was London, where more than 9 000 voters registered, followed by Dubai, where just over 1 000 registered. Just a single voter was registered in Guinea Bissau, the IEC said.