IEC ‘technically ready’ for 2024 elections

The Electoral Commission of South Africa says it has expanded its security measures to provide a fair election The post IEC ‘technically ready’ for 2024 elections appeared first on The Mail & Guardian.

IEC ‘technically ready’ for 2024 elections

The Electoral Commission of South Africa says although it has upgraded its security measures for next year’s general elections, it is not yet cost-effective to introduce new voting technology in the country.

Deputy chief executive Mashego Sheburi said the commission would not be considering biometrics for the elections because there was no business case for it. 

“Because there’s a national registry of all citizens, there is no need to introduce biometrics as a way of validating voter registrations in elections,” he said.

The commission is set to commence its voter registration campaign on the weekend of 18 November.

Sheburi said that after working with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in 2021, the IEC had found a way to ensure that the existing technology prevents voters from casting their ballot more than once.

In 2019 it emerged that the indelible ink meant to show that citizens had already voted, could easily be washed off. More than 20 people were arrested for alleged voter fraud after the elections, for voting many times after using household detergents to remove the ink.

“It is worth mentioning also that indelible ink is only one part of one of the many control measures we have. For example, your name must be on the voter’s roll otherwise you won’t be permitted to vote,” Sheburi said.

He added that part of the control measures included the expanded voter management devices (VMDs). “If you vote at a certain station, the VMD will be updated nationally. So if you go and vote at another station, it will reflect that you have already participated in the election.”

Sheburi said although migration into technology was an inevitable progression of a maturing democracy, there were a number of prerequisites that should be met before embracing new technology.

The country still needs to address the questions regarding biometrics being financially viable and whether it would improve the vote-counting process, compared with manual counting.

Sheburi added that the IEC has previously convened a seminar on electronic voting and counting technologies to assess the feasibility of electronic voting in South Africa. The country, he said, had not formally adopted a position on e-voting which — while presenting some benefits such as speed and accuracy in vote counting — would be expensive to monitor and could reduce transparency in the voting process. 

In 2012, the then chairperson of the IEC Pansy Tlakula noted that there was no global standard for the verification and auditing of e-voting systems.

Sheburi said the electoral body was in the process of opening a new platform where it could have a discussion with South Africans about electronic voting.

As part of the security measures for next year’s vote, the IEC will set aside a date during the voter registration campaign to allow citizens who are far away from their voting station to register at a nearby station as stipulated in section 24A of the Amended Electoral Act of 2008. 

Sheburi said this was one of the measures that would be taken to avoid incidents of double voting, as seen in 2019 where dozens of contesting political parties raised concerns about possible voter fraud.

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