/ 29 May 2024

IEC expects higher voter turnout than in 2019 elections

Voting 6023 Dv
Voters turned out in their numbers on election day, which led to snaking queues. (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

The Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) is predicting that the voter turnout in Wednesday’s general elections will be higher than the 66% in the 2019 elections.

Chief electoral officer Sy Mamabolo told a media briefing on Wednesday evening that  there had been a surge of late voters and polling stations were processing a large number of people, particularly in metros in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Western Cape and Eastern Cape.

He said the IEC’s efforts were beginning to yield results with the queues starting to reduce, adding that those waiting in queues would be allowed to vote beyond the 9pm official closing time. 

The IEC’s staff would remain at polling stations to ensure that every voter cast their vote, he vowed.

Some political parties have raised concerns that people may fear for their security in the dark and abandon their bid to vote. But Mamabolo said the police would remain at stations and also patrol. 

Political parties have also complained that voter management devices had been a deterrent to a smooth voting process. Conceding to this, Mamabolo said there were many variables at play when using the internet. 

But the single biggest intention of the commission was to ensure that every voter in the queue was given an opportunity to record their political choice, he added, and had a sufficient supply of ballot boxes and ballot papers. 

“No one should be turned away,” Mamabolo said. 

Given what appeared to be a high turnout, vote counting was likely to take longer than initially thought, he said. 

The IEC said that to improve the quality of the counting and the completion of result slips, it had instituted a new category of staff to support the presiding officer.  Mamabolo said the recruitment criteria for these employees was slightly different from the rest, as high levels of numeracy were mandatory.

The IEC has seven days after voting for it to declare the result of the elections. Mamabolo said it was not ideal to have a prolonged period without declaring the result. 

The long queues and delays have led to protest action in some parts of the country. 

At about 8pm, radio station Power FM reported that frustration and anger was growing among voters who were yet to cast their vote in Thokoza, Ekurhuleni.