IEC assures no voter will appear twice on Voters' Roll

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

With the new measures the IEC has in place, it will be impossible for a registered voter to appear twice on the Voters' Roll, writes Nthambeleni Gabara.

According to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) the national common Voters' Roll serves as a symbol of unity that says "everybody counts."

It also ensures that eligible voters are not barred from voting and it enhances the credibility of the elections by preventing election rigging.

On the day of elections, IEC officers will mark off the person's name on the hard copy of the Voter's Roll to prevent a voter from voting twice.

Furthermore, voters' Identity Documents (ID) will be stamped to indicate that they have voted and their fingers will be marked with indelible ink.

The ballot papers used during the elections are also stamped with a unique mark when they are issued to voters, to ensure that only official ballot papers are used in the election.

Notification of deaths by the Department of Home Affairs will also lead to an automatic removal from the Voters' Roll, therefore excluding the possibility of someone using a deceased person's name.

The final Voters' Roll to be used on Wednesday's fourth democratic elections was made available to all political parties for their inspection.

IEC Chief Electoral Officer, Adv Pansy Tlakula, said all political parties contesting the elections received a free copy of the Voters' Roll, either in hard copy or on a CD.

She said for this year's General Elections, the electoral staff was recruited transparently. The Commission has adopted clear guidelines and criteria for recruitment to deal with matters such as party-political profiles.

Electoral officials were trained with the aid of comprehensive training manuals which are available to party representatives.

The relevant segment of the Voters' Roll for a voting district will be available in hard copy at the voting station and will be used to confirm whether an individual (whose identity is verified by presentation of an Identity Document) is a registered voter in a particular voting district.

The IEC will also be using the new zip-zip scanner for the first time on Wednesday to ensure the process of monitoring the results runs smoothly.

Adv Tlakula said officials will be able to verify the eligibility to vote of any person arriving at a polling station as well as check the voting districts where they are registered to vote.

The scanner will also be helpful in research as the IEC will be able to download voter information such as gender, age groups, where the most people voted, when the peak voting times were and more.

This new technology, she said, has now increased the capacity that the entire national Voters' Roll can be loaded on each scanner.

According to the IEC, each participating political party has the right to have two party agents at a voting station in order to observe the voting and counting processes.

The Commission has also introduced new regulations to allow at least one agent to verify what happens at each of the three points, namely the Voters' Roll table, finger-inking, and ballot-issuing.

In total, three agents observe these processes which are rotated to ensure that each party has the opportunity to have at least one agent at these points.

To further ensure that the elections are free and fair, Adv Tlakula said two agents must be present when a presiding officer considers an application by a voter who wishes to vote at a voting station outside the voting district in which he or she is registered.

"These provisions add to an earlier provision that allows two agents to be present when a presiding officer assists a voter who cannot read or write to vote.

"Party agents are also present at the start of voting to ensure that ballot boxes are empty, and when filled ballot boxes are sealed they may attach their own seals and record the seal numbers," according to the IEC.

The agents are also present during the counting and the signing of the results slips which record the results at the voting stations.

Measures used to safeguard material used during voting and counting includes tamper-proof transparent bags, seals with individual numbers, secure transporting and warehousing.

According to the IEC, the ballot papers are printed in book form with counterfoils; the counterfoils are numbered, to allow the presiding officer to know how many ballot sheets are in the book.

The ballot paper is torn off the counterfoil, which remains in the ballot book.

"There is no numbering on the actual ballot paper, to ensure the secrecy of the ballot by not allowing a ballot paper to be traced to a voter.

"In the case of special votes cast at foreign missions, and on home or hospital visits to the infirm, disabled or pregnant, a double-envelope system is used," the IEC said.

The voter marks the ballot paper, folds it and seals it in an unmarked envelope on which the voters' name, ID number and voting district are recorded.

Thereafter, the counting of ballot papers are done at the respective voting stations. Each voting station receives two results slips per election. The results slips are completed by the presiding officer and countersigned by the deputy counting officer.

"They are also signed by party agents. The two results slips are completed identically at the voting station, with one remaining at the voting station where it is displayed," the IEC said.

The other one is sealed in a transparent tamper-proof bag which is checked at the local capturing office.

An innovation for these elections is that the results slips are to be scanned and displayed at the Results Operations Centre (ROC) alongside the computerised results captured on the system.

The Commission have employed independent qualified auditors to verify that the results captured on the results system at each local office in fact correspond with the results on the original results slip as received from the voting station.