IEC concerned about youth voter apathy

Thursday, March 3, 2016

By More Matshediso

Pretoria- With the first registration campaign for the 2016 Local Government Elections scheduled for this coming weekend, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) says it is targeting the youth to participate in voting as this group remains under-represented in the voter’s roll.

Statistics show that South Africa’s voter’s roll currently has approximately 25 million voters, and the commission is encouraging all eligible voters to get registered and those who are already on the voter’s roll to update their details, ahead of the local government elections.

Out of the 25 million voters on the voter’s roll, youth only make up to less than ten million, yet, according to Statistics  South Africa, those who are below the age of 35 years constitute about 66 percent of the total population of 54 million.

IEC Chairperson Glen Mashinini spoke to SA News on the commission’s plans to encourage young people to participate in elections.

“Our campaigns are primarily focusing on the youth. We are just going to call on people to update their details, but we are still trying to push the drive for youth to register,” says Mashinini.

He says all voting stations will open between 8am and 5pm on 5 and 6 March 2016, for eligible voters to register, re-register and to update their details.

To be able to vote, you must register as a voter. Once you've registered, your details appear on the voters' roll. The voters' roll helps the commission to plan an election and identify fraud as it shows how many voters to expect in each voting district.

Although youth are under-represented in the voter’s roll, Mashinini says the figures indicate that there has been an increase in the number of citizens captured on the voter‘s roll over the years.

“When we started in 1998, we had about 18.5 million people, but today we are sitting at about 25 million. It is a steady growth, however we are still saying the young people remain under-represented compared to other age groups. Hence our focus in this round of registration is to encourage youth people,” says Mashinini.

He says it is everybody’s patriotic responsibility to ensure that they are part of democracy, and that young people are important as they are part of the country’s citizens.

“The importance of getting young people to vote is that their participation will ensure that their will is represented in the political system of the country.

“The Importance of Local Government Elections is that, that is where most of the services that affect you and me on a daily basis are provided. It is the heartbeat of any economy that is provided by the cities. It is where the quality of life is being determined. That is why it is important for young people - and every citizen should exercise their right to vote,” says Mashinini.

The commission is also considering additional opportunities for voters to register and update their information ahead of the 2016 local government elections.

Mashinini also says the commission will seek urgent engagements with the leaders of political parties represented on the National Party Liaison Committee and other key stakeholders this week, to brief them on preparations for the elections.

Meanwhile, the Commission’s Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Simon Mamabolo, says it’s all systems go for the registration weekend, and all voting stations have been procured through the necessary lease agreements, and processes are either complete or underway at the temporary voting stations.

“Logistically, we have held our registration material in our provincial and municipal warehouses for few months already. Most of this week, we are moving the material as close as possible to where registration points are.

“Staff has been trained. We are poised for a well-run registration process, we are poised for huge numbers in this registration period,” says Mamabolo.-SAnews.gov.za

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