There are concerns that the voter turnout for the local government elections may be negatively affected by various factors such as long-weekend; reports of inclement weather in some parts of the country; prevailing voter apathy and disgruntlement; as well as possible fear of COVID-19 infection.
Local government elections have had lower turnout in the past two elections. In 2016 the voter turnout was 58% while in 2011 it was 57.6%.
IEC’s Chief Electoral Officer Sy Mamabolo has expressed concerns.
“If you have travelled, please do come back to your voting station on time because you won’t be able to vote anywhere else but the voting district where you are registered unlike in national and provincial elections where you will have an opportunity to vote outside of your district. So all those who may have travelled have until tomorrow really to travel back to the place where they are registered,” said Mamabolo.
Voters are urged to travel back to their registered wards so that they may arrive in time before voting stations close at 21h00.
Electoral Commission (IEC) Chairperson Glen Mashinini said voters who will be on the voting queue at the voting station will be allowed to vote even after 21h00.
In addition, one vote can determine who wins the ward. In hotly contested wards, there is a possibility of seeing election results with razor-thin margins.
Quite often the public is not aware that where there is a stalemate in the race for votes in the ward, an election can be decided by the equivalent of randomly tossing a coin, according to the Municipal Structures Act, No 117 of 1998, which makes provision for the flipping of a coin in case of a tie between ward candidates to decide the winning candidate.
Collette Schulz-Herzenberg of Stellenbosch University’s department of political science urged voters not to view their votes as wasted votes if they consider voting for a small party.
“In PR system, which is half the ballot at the local govt level, there is no such a thing as a wasted vote. All PR votes are counted, even those directed at small parties. Even small parties can play important roles in government as parents of a broader coalition or even as kingmakers. A healthy democracy needs high levels of participation.”
Dr TK Pooe of Wits School of Governance said voting in this election is important because the country’s municipalities are in a dire state and need a total shake-up.
Pooe further said voters should not see their vote as a waste. “My hope is that citizens and communities will now get involved in Ward Committees to ensure councilors and municipalities are made accountable to them.”