Electoral Bill [B69-98]: briefing

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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report


1 September 1998

Document handed out

Electoral Bill [B 69B –98]
Adoptions Matters Amendment Bill [B80-98]

The Electoral Bill had been due to be passed in Parliament on Monday, 31 August, but the Democratic Party had objected to the wording of an amendment which they claimed had been altered by the law advisors. It was thus referred back to the Portfolio Committee. The Committee was briefed on the Bill by officials from the Independent Electoral Commission and the Department of Home Affairs. There was mostly consensus in the committee, but much discussion about the bar-coded IDs which the Department of Home Affairs is confident that it can deliver.

The Electoral Bill was to be discussed in parliament the previous day, but because of last-minute Democratic Party proposed amendments on the issue of bar-coded ID documents, it has been referred back to the Portfolio Committee. The committee went ahead with the briefing on the Bill.

Mr Van der Merwe of the IEC went through the structure of the Bill very briefly.
The country is divided into 12 000 voting districts of +- 3 500 voters
Voters registered where they ordinarily reside, given a receipt when they register, which is attached to the ID document
Voting on one day only, and votes are to be counted at the station.
[Chapter 3, part 4 – Regulations re Municipal elections will have to be separately handled because these are not yet finalised]
Special votes – chapter 3, part 5 – are for 3 categories only: disabled, government workers in foreign countries, IEC employees. There is also a declaration vote for special cases.
Chapter 4 and 5 on voting
Chapter 6 on administration, vote education
Schedule 1 – election timetable to be announced in the form)
Schedule 2 – code of conduct, including new section on the role of the media.
Schedule 3 – composition of the National Assembly and Provincial Legislatures.

After some general discussion , the committee was addressed by Mr Tredoux on Chapter 2 – registration of voters and the voters roll. The first recommendation had been the use of bar-coded documents, but after the HSRC research, the IEC recommended that all documents be legitimate (HSRC – 10% Do not have ID’s at all, 10% do not have bar-coded documents) However after the hitch in the second reading the previous day, the legal advisors have said that it would not be unconstitutional to insist on bar-coded documents. Mr Tredoux pointed out that the bar-coded document had been in use since 1986 legislation, furthermore a temporary document could be used as long as the voter had been registered on the population register, where all particulars were registered. (The advantage of the bar-coded document is that it includes all particulars and fingerprints, so fraud is almost impossible).

Mr Selfe (DP) asked if Home Affairs was capable of delivering. The answer was that although HSRC estimated that 4.7- 5.1 million still needed to apply because they had no form of ID, the response to the campaign was good, applicants would probably get temporary documents as long as they were on the population register (old blue and green ID’s are still valid for the purposes of registration but not for voting) It normally takes 2 months to get an ID after applying. At present approximately 18 000 are being processed each day, but extra staff may be needed later. There was further discussion on this issue, but the decision seemed to have been made and the bill would be passed by parliament that afternoon.

Chapter 2 – Registration and voters roll
7.1 (b) – "where you live" is not defined , but if a person has two houses, a choice can be made of where to register.
11 – amendments must be made by electoral officers if there are irregularities (and it is an offence to be registered in two places)
14 – registration of voters starts in October and ends in February
15 – objections can be lodged in a variety of ways
16 - voters rolls will not have addresses, for reason of size, but all information will be available at Municipal electoral offices.

There will be mobile stations for large segments where people are more than walking distance. These should also be available for the registration of voters.

Chapter 3
33 – Special votes. Application for these limited categories have to be made before election day. There will be no special votes for prisoners.

The IEC has no funds for voter education but will assist NGOs to lobby government for funds.

Time was limited for questioning by the committee members. Question were asked by several members. Mr J Selfe was particularly concerned that the IEC look carefully at chapter 4, 36(7) (ensuring free and fair elections) and insert another clause which would cover the situation should something happen (such as a fire, flood or political arrest) to disrupt the venue on the day of the election. The IEC undertook to look at this carefully.


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