The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) expressed its concern about how elections and by-elections can be administered during the lock state.
The IEC, which, like the vast majority of government departments and state-aided institutions, has retained a reduced budget in the modified budget of Finance Minister Tito Mboweni, appeared this morning virtually before the parliamentary portfolio committee on home affairs.
The purpose of the meeting was to determine what impact the reduction in the budget will have on the IEC’s ability to do its job and fulfill its mandate.
In its submission, the IEC pointed out that the digital era currently entering presents its own challenges and opportunities for elections. For many years, there has been a discourse in and with the IEC on the possibility of voting electronically.
The last time the issue was formally heard by the IEC was two years ago. Then it was decided that a digital or electronic voting process would not be as reliable as the current paper process, which is counted by people in each polling station.
In 2018, all major political parties also rejected an electronic or digital voting system.
A few months ago, however, a former IEC commissioner, Terry Tselane, began to stir the pot once again in a newspaper article with an insistence on electronic voting, so the issue is still on the table as a possibility.
The other major challenge for the IEC is that the disinfection measures and the required social distancing during the current lock state almost make impossible demands on the IEC.
The chief electoral officer, Sy Mamabolo, said in his presentation that there was constant disfigurement because everyone at the polling station was doing the same things (voter roll, ballot papers, pencils, ID documents, voting booth surfaces, polls, voting advice and so on) ) is going to slow down the vote because everything and everyone will have to be constantly disinfected.
Many more people will also have to be employed as polling officers, because someone will have to constantly apply and monitor the disinfection, while the 1.5m social distance will be very difficult to maintain at political parties’ information tables and in the electoral queue, to not even talking about the maximum of 50 people per polling place.
The IEC is therefore able to continue with elections, but it will be slower and more expensive than before.