Marked increase in special votes

The Independent Electoral Commission’s (IEC) decision to relax requirements for those who can register for special votes, has led to the number of applicants countrywide increasing three-fold compared to the 2011 local government elections.

Initially, a few categories of eligible voters were allowed to apply for special voting which commenced yesterday and runs until 5pm today.

The commission had previously allowed only persons with disabilities who could not travel to voting stations, the elderly, sickly, pregnant women, members of the security forces, media and election officials, to apply for the special voting status.

However, regulations amended in April, allow any registered voter who would not be in their voting station on election day, to apply for a special vote status.

This led to the number of applicants increasing, three times more than those applications made in the 2011 local government elections.

For this year’s elections, a total of 741720 special vote applications were received by the commission countrywide and 719225 were approved.

This includes 315597 (44%) applications for home visits and 403628 (56%) applications to cast a special vote at a voting station.

This is a drastic increase compared to 2011, where a little more than 200000 people applied for special votes countrywide.

In the province, 71111 voters were approved for special votes, with 46881 of them visited at home between yesterday and today, while 24230 were to be allowed to cast their votes in their respective stations.

The commission’s provincial head Thami Mraji yesterday said this was as a result of “huge interest” and “serious mobilisation” shown by political parties ahead of these elections.

Mraji said new developments in the IEC, which had allowed people to apply for special voting status through SMS and online platforms, also contributed to the dramatic increase.

In Willowvale’s Nqabarha Senior Secondary voting station in Mbhashe’s Ward 29, it is said that more than 40 pupils appear on the list of those eligible for special votes yesterday and today.

According to UDM party agent Nkosinathi Ndlodaka, this ward has the most number of voters who applied for the special vote facility in Mbhashe.

“These include more than 40 pupils from the same school where the station is located. For us that did not make sense.”

The commission’s provincial spokeswoman Pearl Ngoza yesterday said there was nothing sinister about that, as anyone who had applied and had been approved for special votes, could vote.

Ngoza said the high number of youths voting on these days came as a result of “some political parties who abused the system and make voters who would normally vote on election day, apply for special voting because of this new amendment”.

Ngoza said the commission had also noted that all the wards in Nelson Mandela Bay Metro, except for one, have people who had applied for special votes.

— asandan@dispatch.co.za

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