The Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) has removed a deputy presiding officer from a voting station in Benoni, Ekurhuleni, after an investigation into a video, which showed that the official had allowed a party agent to assist in the transfer of special votes.
The IEC said in a statement that the video went viral on Monday and showed a party agent helping to transfer special votes in their double envelopes from a ballot bag used during home visits to a ballot box in the voting station.
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The IEC explains in its statement that the transferring of votes from a ballot bag to a box is standard procedure.
“Ballot bags are used to collect special votes during home visits as ballot boxes are impractical for home visits. At the end of home visits, the special votes collected are then transferred to a ballot box for secure storage and to empty the ballot bag for use on the second day of special voting,” it says.
However, the handling of any electoral material by a party agent is strictly forbidden. They can only observe operations and raise objections.
As a result, the IEC confirmed that the deputy presiding officer who was overseeing the process has since been removed.
However, the IEC is confident that despite the offence, the process will not be undermined as the double envelope voting system allows for special votes to have a “very strict process even before the ballots are counted”.
“Before special votes are included in the count they are subjected to a thorough verification against lists of authorised special voters. This is witnessed by party agents and observers. Only when the special vote is confirmed against the authorised list is the outer envelope removed and the inner envelope is added to normal ballots for counting. This protects the secrecy of the vote,” the IEC added.
Once the IEC reaches an outcome on the investigation, a decision will be taken on whether these votes count or not.