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SOCIAL SERVICES SELECT COMMITTEE
3 June 1998
IEC PLANNING FOR 1999 ELECTIONS: BRIEFING
Documents handed out:
Independent Electoral Commission - First Steps on the Journey, June 1998
Judge Kriegler, Chairperson of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), gave a briefing on the Commission's progress as well as outstanding problems. These problems included insufficient funding and 2,5 million bar-coded IDs still needing to be issued.
Judge Kriegler, Chairperson of the IEC, introduced some members of the IEC to the Committee. He then began the briefing on the planning for the 1999 elections. The IEC is a permanent body which has to administer all elections in future. This meant that the Commission needed to be in close contact with all stakeholders concerned. It also needed to advise on legislation to the Home Affairs Portfolio Committee.
Judge Kriegler said that the whole country was represented geographically on a highly sophisticated database, where every river, bridge or road could be retrieved. The country could be projected demographically onto an electronic map, called the Geographical Information Service (GIS). This map can be used by any ministry.
There would be 12 000 voting station maps (derived from this database) sent to the local authorities on a district basis by mid-August. It was hoped that all the stations would be ready for registration. Voters are to register where they live. The IEC hoped to do the registration from mid-October to mid-January. 40 000 voting administrators were needed for this task.
From mid-January, the electorate had to be divided into a provincial and national roll. By the end of February there would be a draft roll that would be able to have last minute rectifications. The final roll would be provided in 12 000 segments for the voting stations. There would have to be 500 local offices.
There would have to be one common roll. By December the voters would know where they need to vote as it would be the same place they registered. The registration period would be a trial run for the IEC. It would be deduced during this period which places are strategic and which are not. After registration, the training period would begin.
The ID book, with a bar code, is the safest way to eliminate fraud. A hand held scanner would read off the details. This data would be fed into the database.
If the registration process using the bar-coded ID book, does not provide the numbers, it will disenfranchise people. If the registration percentage is too low, it predetermines a low poll.
The Independent Electoral Act, 1996, differs from the old Act. It requires a timetable and tells parties what has to be done by a particular time. The onus is on the IEC to do the arithmetic. It makes provision for a voters roll. This is more work but it is creditable. It also means less bedlam with 10,000 people at one polling station and none at another.
The new Act is written in plain English for people to be able to administer the election.
The current rules will apply for the next elections only. Draft proposals and options will be put forward in due course which would have to be studied by political parties.
These must take place within 90 days after 30th April 1999. The date is not yet fixed but the IEC must be ready for the earliest in May. A single day of voting is planned which is infinitely cheaper. It can be done because there are smaller voting districts with manageable numbers. There will be set-backs, as is inevitable in the logistics of the operation of over 12,000 different voting districts.
The voting station must be accessible for everyone to reach. There may be a need for mobile stations in the more rural, thinly populated areas. 25 people will need to work in each polling station and a staff of 300,000 is envisaged for this.
There have been representations that currently unemployed people be used. While being aware of the social problems, the IEC could not become an employment agency. It needs to use as far as possible current government personnel. It will try to make the mix as fair as possible.
Judge Kriegler went on to say that no vote has been planned for people abroad, the aged or the infirm as there is no provision made for it in the Act. That is for Parliament to decide whether there should be postal, proxy votes etc. It would cost a lot of money and the Commission had not budgeted on any special vote.
It is hoped that Parliament will be persuaded that the count take place in the voting station where the vote took place. For example, if you have 9 hours for voting, the voting station closes and then the counting starts. This continues until the result for that station can be announced. This counting process will not be endless.
The IEC would need to draw on the assistance of outside consultancies which does put up costs and does not allow for the transfer of skills to IEC staff for the future.
There is a 48,2% shortfall on the allocated budget for the year 1998/99. This is R500 million instead of R965 million. This meant no money for voter education. There were no funds to subsidise local government to undertake a local agency election function.
Also, there could be insufficient funds for registration which meant that personnel could not be employed and trained as was required. It could even mean a ceiling on registration with an effect on the polls giving less validity to the outcome of the election.
The problem of the backlog for issuing bar-coded ID books was raised. Judge Kriegler responded that if the Department of Home Affairs could not cope with issuing of the new ID books, an appropriate decision would have to be made by the politicians. The bar-coded ID document was the best instrument for avoiding fraud. It may mean that a compromise would have to be found between disenfranchising citizens and a disorderly vote.
There is a lot of anecdotal evidence as to how many cards are being issued. A research project is underway on the capacity that the Department of Home Affairs has to deliver. We need 2½ million bar-coded documents.
Replying to a question on where students will vote, it was said that they would register where they live during the year. The same would apply to migrant workers. Voters could only vote in one place.
Judge Kriegler concluded that there cannot be a postponement of the election if the required conditions are not fulfilled. It would be disastrous for the country if we were unable to have our second democratic election. If the IEC failed - it would be the fault of the politicians.
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