Cheers to paper as SA voting could go digital! Plus proposed changes to General Elections discussed

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A large challenge which has unequivocally been remedied through digital solutions, is opportunity. With people debating the pros and cons of a paperless voting process, one thing is for sure, ballot boxes will be found in fields, no more. Plus people, no matter where in the world, could vote with ease.

Looking at the upcoming potential changes, South Africans can expect an enormous difference in the overall process, if all goes according to plan. This follows Aaron Motsoaledi, Minister of Home Affairs, announcing his intention to introduce the Electoral Laws Amendment Bill to the National Assembly.

According to Motsoaledi, the Amendment Bill focuses on amending three pieces of legislation, namely, the Electoral Commission Act, 1996 (Act No.51 of 1996), the Electoral Act, 1998 (Act No.73 of 1998) and the Local Government: Municipal Electoral Act, 2000 (Act No. 27 of 2000) all to align the relevant provisions of the legislation relating to municipal elections.

While the legislation primarily appears to simplify the election process, it also makes way for significant changes in the future, modernising the electoral process. Seeing the process becoming more current and by default more accessible and accurate. 

Looking at what these changes entail, on Wednesday, September 9, Motsoaledi gazetted a descriptive summary of the Amendment Bill, highlighting some of the changes which are to be included in the bill. 

With the most noteworthy changes being:

Going paperless: The bill will discontinue the requirement to submit paper documents by political parties. This is to facilitate seamless and electronic submission of documents relating to candidates.

Voting electronically: Furthermore, the amendment bill will allow the Electoral Commission to prescribe a method of voting other than the current paper ballot method, such as electronic voting.

Voters roll: The proposed amendment bill will allow a different voting procedure for voters, whose names appear on the certified voters’ roll on voting day, but without an address recorded on the voters’ roll.

With the proposed voting process changes falling into the “pros” category, at least, for the most part, what about the upcoming elections? With a huge focus being placed on political parties during 2020, seeing many South African’s becoming more politically inclined, can we still expect to go to the polls in 2021 or is there a plan to change things?

The Independent Electoral Commission says it has noted media reports which give reference to an alleged proposal to postpone the Municipal Elections intended to be conducted in 2021. According to the electoral commission, these reports are incorrect.

However, speaking on Municipal Elections, as required in law, the Electoral Commission says the municipal elections will be proclaimed by the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma after consultations with the Electoral Commission. In this regard, the Electoral Commission has begun consultations with the Minister.

While the elections are meant to take place between August 4 and the end of November 2021, there is still uncertainty around the elections.

Oddly enough, both the ANC and EFF strongly agreed on the proposed postponement for the upcoming local government elections. According to City Press, the two parties also feel the elections should be consolidated, with national, provincial and local government elections taking place in the same year.  Some might see this as a “pro” and others as a “con”. 

What are your thoughts on the proposed changes and general vide around the elections? Leave your comments in the section below

Authors: Quinton Boucher and Calvin Swemmer

Edited: Calvin Swemmer

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