Voter registration: some good news, pity about the glitches

With a little less than six weeks to go until the local government elections, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) held what it describes as a successful final voter registration weekend last Saturday and Sunday. 

There are a few big numbers worth celebrating. For starters, nearly 400 000 new people were added to the voters’ roll. It’s also great to hear that many 18 and 19-year-olds took advantage of reaching the legal voting age. The IEC says that registrations in this age group more than tripled during registration weekend, from 44,079 to 169,068. Plus, we’re delighted to see women leading the way in this arena as in so many other South African spaces: overall, they represent 55,17% of registered voters.😁

Unfortunately the weekend was marred by technical glitches; the commission’s CEO Sy Mamabolo called these “unfortunate” and suggested that they couldn’t have been predicted. 😞 

But the glitches weren’t just frustrating: they mean that many people were unable to register and won’t have another opportunity to do so before 1 November. The IEC’s initial target was to register 800 000 new voters – it reached only half that number. The current voters’ roll has about 26 million registered voters; 40 million of us are eligible to vote, leaving a shortfall of 13 million

If you missed out on registering, take heart: there are plenty of ways to be an active, election-engaged citizen. Read parties’ manifestos online; ask your elected representatives tough questions online or on their doorsteps (that is, if your ward councillor is as accessible as they ought to be). You could also help get people to the polls on 1 November if you’ve got time and a vehicle, and guide others through applying for a special vote by 4 October. 

This article appeared as part of The Wrap, 23 September 2021. Sign up to receive our weekly updates.