Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi is to table in parliament amendments to the electoral laws that could pave the way for the introduction of electronic voting over and above the traditional method of polling.
Motsoaledi has disclosed this in a notice on the government gazette.
The IEC told parliament in July that it was also considering piloting e-voting. However, such a pilot project would require additional funding from the National Treasury.
The country is gearing for local government elections next year but it’s unclear what the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the upcoming polls will be.
Motsoaledi has floated the idea of introducing e-voting in addition to the paper-based voting.
In a notice in the government gazette, Motsoaledi proposes the discontinuation of the requirement by parties to submit paper documents.
They can submit them electronically, if the proposed amendments to the electoral laws are passed.
However, some political parties have expressed concerns.
Other political parties’ concerns
Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) Chief Whip, Narend Singh, says this is unlikely to be implemented soon.
“We note the publication of the proposed amendments. We will have to consider them as a National Council. However, our preliminary response to electronic voting would be that it would not be able to be implemented in the next elections. Challenges of communication infrastructure, connectivity, voter education, larger number of candidates contesting would be constraints. International examples of African country experiences will be useful determination tools,” says Singh.
MPs from the Democratic Alliance (DA), Angel Khanyile and Wouter Wessels from the Freedom Front Plus, share Singh’s concerns.
“We are in support. However, we have concerns about people in rural areas. (To) make sure (they) have access to be able to vote, the IEC will have to get training, to also give people assurance no vote rigging. Community members will have concerns,” says Khanyile.
“Electronic voting system will fix problems like transportation of ballots and counting process. But we are also of the opinion it’s over ambitious for this stage, taking into account connectivity challenges. No electricity and no internet would be detrimental,” says Wessels.
Dr Ntsikelelo Breakfast from Stellenbosch University has mixed emotions about the proposals.
“(I) have mixed emotions … can’t use yesterday’s methods for today’s problems. We have had problems with ballot boxes, issues that came out of certain polling stations not corresponding with turnout at those stations. Introducing electronic, you may nip it in the bud. So, in that respect, I think its all well and good. But also in our country, with class contradictions, poverty, inequality, illiteracy, it might be a challenge. Some people might be overwhelmed,” says Breakfast.
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