Action SA set to take the IEC to court over ballot papers

Action SA is turning to the courts to fight the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC), after ballot papers for this year’s local government elections were printed without the party’s name. 

Action SA also claims that its candidates were initially not featured on the IEC’s lists. 

In a statement on Monday, Action SA national spokesperson Michael Beaumont said the party’s lawyers had said there was no legal basis for the commission to refuse to remedy the situation. 

The rift between Action SA and the IEC comes after the commission presented final draft ballot papers for Gauteng on Saturday during a sign-off session with political parties.  

Action SA complained that the IEC’s draft ballot paper had only the party’s logo, with a blank space where its name should have been.

It gave the IEC until 10am on Monday to indicate whether it would remedy the situation. 

In his statement, Beaumont accused the IEC of breaching its overarching responsibility to ensure free and fair elections, saying voters must be able to identify a political party in the ballot papers in many ways including the party logo, name, acronym and party leaders. 

Speaking to the Mail & Guardian, IEC spokesperson Kate Bapela would not be drawn into commenting on the accusations, only saying that Action SA was in communication with IEC chief electoral officer Sy Mamabolo about the matter. 

The IEC previously rejected Action SA’s application to register as a political party after another party complained that it had stolen its colours and logo. 

In its statement in September last year, the IEC said research into the ballot paper design in 2018 had shown that voters used logos as the primary distinguishing identifier to select their party. It said more prominence had been given to party logos on the ballot paper for this reason, so as to limit the number of votes inadvertently cast for the wrong party.

Action SA later changed its party logo. 

Beaumont said it was ironic that its latest skirmish with the IEC was also focused on the issue of the party’s identifying symbols, when the commission had previously highlighted their importance.

“How the commission can hold this view when denying our registration and disregard it when denying our present request defies all logic,” he said.  

“There is no provision in law which limits or empowers the IEC to rely solely on the party’s registration documentation for the construction of ballot papers — our law remains silent on what information goes into a ballot paper. In the absence of such provisions of legislation the IEC must act in the interests of free and fair elections and administrative justice,” he said. 

Beaumont said Action SA was concerned by how the IEC had handled the matter.

“Our brief time as a political party has been beset by issues with the IEC. We have been refused [registration]  as a party and we have been ignored in our concerns about the multiparty democracy fund that the IEC openly advocates for people to exclusively fund political parties established in parliament,” he said.

“The exclusion of our candidates from the candidate lists published this week has been solved but not publicised, and we must endure an arbitrary refusal to reflect Action SA equally on the ballot papers. Action SA’s legal team will immediately begin drafting papers on an agent basis.”

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Lizeka Tandwa
Lizeka Tandwa
Lizeka Tandwa is a political journalist with a keen interest in local government.

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