Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Voting experience with the local government elections 2011

iecWell, this was my first real voter’s experience in a long time. Back in 2006 I was a candidate in my ward for the ACDP. Hence, I did not have to stand in any long lines to vote. In subsequent elections I was an ACDP party agent, and again didn’t have to stand in long lines to vote.

However, this year I was a simple voter ready to make my cross behind my chosen party and candidate. We arrived at the voting station at 11:10 this morning and had a voting line that was only 50m (55yds) long.

Of course, the problem wasn’t the length of the line, but how long it took the IEC to get us to the front of that line to vote! It took us one and a half hours to get to a voting booth! For a 50m line, that is simply astounding, and unacceptable! The problem was not that the voters took their time in the actual voting booths inside the voting room. When my wife and I walked in there, 3 of the booths were empty. That means that if the IEC officials had a better system going, voting could have gone much quicker.

The IEC officials split the voters’ roll into 3 sections, alphabetically from A-L, M-S and T-Z. The first group had 12 letters of the alphabet, the second 7, and the last also 7. This split obviously did not work, because the lines going to M-S and T-Z hardly ever had anyone in it. How many people in South Africa, statistically, have surnames starting with U, X, Y, or Z?

This is something that has to be highlighted with each election cycle. In each of the previous elections I was involved in, whether as candidate or party agent, we had to give the IEC better ideas of how to speed up the voting process! They never came up with new ideas on the spot! The same seems to have been the case today.

I can only imagine the people in rural areas waiting for hours to cast a vote.

The IEC has been at this for more than 15 years. Surely they could have come up with better ways of handling voting stations where people do not have to stand in line for so long. In fact, electronic voting would be way better, based on either fingerprinting, ID book scanning or some other electronic means. It should be quicker with less people from the IEC to slow down the process with name finding and deleting, finger marking and folding ballot papers. If the government spends less money on fruitless endeavours, corruption is stamped out and lazy officials are given the cut, then there should be ample funds left to start such an electronic voting project.

All I am saying is that the IEC needs to start thinking proactively about how they can make the voting process easier and quicker. The sooner they start the better!

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