The coming weekend sees the Electoral Commission (IEC) conduct its last concerted campaign to get citizens to register for the national election scheduled for later this year. The last registration drive by the IEC took place over the weekend of 10/11 March 2018.
During that drive 2.8 million South Africans confirmed their registration details, registered in new voting districts or placed their name on the voters roll for the first time. Most of that weekend’s activity was made up of confirmations and alterations as there were only only 490 000 new enrollments.
Last year’s drive culminated in 26.2 million South Africans now enrolled to vote. By comparison there are 34.9 million citizens of voting age. That campaign brought the voter registration rate to 75%.
To bring this to 100% the IEC will have to enroll another 8.7 million potential voters.
The registration rate varies by geography and demography. The highest provincial registration rate is in the Eastern Cape where 87% of the voting age population is registered.
The lowest registration rate (67%) is in Gauteng. Over 3 million voting age citizens in Gauteng will, as things stand, not be able to vote in May. The table below shows, by province, the number of voting age citizens who are not currently registered.
Northern Cape 164 000
Free State 315 000
Eastern Cape 492 000
North West 663 000
Limpopo 675 000
Mpumalanga 777 000
Western Cape 1 240 000
KwaZulu-Natal 1 362 000
Gauteng 3 030 000
The graphic below shows the voting age population in each province and how this compares to the number of people registered to vote. New registrations (this who registered in March last year) are shown separately despite them making a tiny difference to the total.
South Africans who are now aged 18 or 19 were too young to vote in the Local Government Election of 2016. These youths will be given their first opportunity to vote in May. The registration drive by the IEC goes some way to including these youth on the voters roll.
While 5% of the voting age population are aged 18 or 19 almost 27% of new registrations were from this age group. Despite this only 16% of the 1.8 million 18/19 year olds are currently registered to vote. By contrast 57% of citizens age 20-29 are registered.
The table below shows the registration rate by age cohort.
age group Registered Voting age population Registration rate
=18 <=19 270356 1729922 16%
>=20 <=29 5393782 9517307 57%
>=30 <=40 6546254 8965472 73%
>=40 <=50 5409267 6001415 90%
>=50 <=60 4116317 4271151 96%
>=60 4514963 4482849 101%
TOTAL 26250939 34968119 75%
Given the enormous backlog it would seem that the IEC faces a major challenge in increasing youth participation in the next election. Despite the magnitude of that challenge the backlog among 18 and 19-years-old makes up only 16% of the total registration backlog. If the March 2018 experience is anything to go on its is unlikely that the registration backlog will be dented much next weekend.