Home Affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi has tabled the Electoral Laws Amendment Bill in parliament, with the draft legislation set to introduce a number of changes to elections in South Africa.
While the legislation primarily aims to consolidate and streamline the elections process, it does make way for more significant changes in the future, such as the introduction of electronic voting.
The most notable changes are outlined in more detail below.
- Electronic voting – The bill allows the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to prescribe a ‘different voting method’ than the current paper ballot method in use. This could open the way for electronic voting;
- Paperless – The bill discontinues the requirement to submit paper documents by political parties in order to facilitate seamless and electronic submission of documents relating to candidates;
- Out of country voting – The bill will allow voters who will be outside the republic on a voting day, to cast a special vote at a designated place. This provision automatically allows for voters who are outside the Republic and whose names appear on the international segment of the voters roll to vote at the Embassy, Consulate or High Commission. They are not required to submit additional notice to the chief electoral officer of their intention to vote abroad. However, voters who are not registered in terms of that segment will be required to notify the chief electoral officer;
- Voters roll – The bill will allow a different voting procedure for voters whose names appear on the certified voters’ roll on voting day but without an address recorded on the voters’ roll.
You can read the bill below.
Private member’s bill
In a separate private member’s bill announced at the end of August, Congress of the People (Cope) leader Mosiuoa Lekota also announced planned changes to the country’s elections.
Lekota said that the primary aim of the bill is to give effect to the June 2020 Constitutional Court ruling which found that the country’s Electoral Act is unconstitutional as it does not provide for adult citizens to be elected to the National and Provincial Legislatures as independent candidates.
He said that under the current party system, voters are ‘estranged’ because a direct relationship with a member of parliament is absent and a lack of accountability of members of the relevant legislatures to its voters prevails.
“The increasing and continuing alienation of voters from the political system is detrimental to democracy and the well-being of society at large,” he said.
Lekota said the Electoral Laws Amendment Bill seeks to address the Constitutional Court judgement by amending existing electoral legislation to make provision for independent candidates to stand for public office in provincial and national elections, without requiring such candidate to be a member of a particular political party.
“It will also provide for a legislative mechanism to allow independent candidates to stand for election and allowing elections to happen in constituencies that align with districts using the ‘open list’ proportional representation, which will best serve the interests of every South African and most particularly those who have remained marginalised, neglected and increasingly alienated from the politics of the day,” he said.