IEC targets 25 million voter roll

Over 24.1 million South Africans have registered to vote, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) said on Thursday – but only a small percentage of “born-free” South Africa youth have opted to exercise the hard-won right, data shows.

This is ahead of the final voter registration taking place this weekend (8 – 9 February).

“This (24.1 million) is 76.7% of the estimated voting age population which, according to Statistics SA, is 31.4 million,” IEC spokeswoman Kate Bapela said in a statement.

“This includes just over one million new voters who were added to the voters’ roll during the previous registration weekend held in November.”

The IEC had set itself a target of securing 80% of the voting population on its voters’ roll.

“To reach this threshold, 1.1 million will be targeted in the final registration weekend.”

According to the IEC’s data, only 427,690 voters between the ages of 18 and 19 – the “born free” generation – have so far registered to vote in the 2014 elections.

Reportedly, Statistics South Africa’s figures show that an estimated 1.5 million South Africans are 18 or 19 years old – leaving a massively untapped market of around 1.1 million young voters to draw in.

Registered voters don’t equal votes

However, voter registration has never been a fool-proof indication of how many citizens will cast their ballot on voting day.

South Africa’s elections have struggled to draw out the full force of voters since their peak during the first democratic elections held in the country in 1994.

In that year, close to 20 million South Africans came out to cast their vote, which resulted in Nelson Mandela becoming president of the nation.

Subsequent elections, in 1999, 2004 and 2009, saw numbers slip, with vote figures failing to match up to registrations by as much as 23%.

South African general elections: voter registrations vs votes

Year Registered voters Voters Turnout (%)
2014 24,087,507
2009 23,181,997 17,919,966 77.3%
2004 20,674,926 15,863,558 76.7%
1999 18,172,751 16,228,462 89.3%
1994 19,726,610 N/A

Source: IEC

IEC’s Bapela said 22,263 voting stations throughout the country would be open on Saturday and Sunday from 8am to 5pm for the final voter registration weekend.

“This is the last weekend during which the voters can apply to register to vote for the 2014 national and provincial elections,” she said.

In January, two voter registration weekends were held out in South Africa’s 123 missions in 108 countries around the world.

Bapela said voter registration remained opened at the missions during working hours.

“For purposes of the 2014 national and provincial elections, South African citizens abroad have been encouraged to ensure that their applications are received by close of business on Friday, 7 February,” she said.

“To date we have received 3,703 applications for registration from about 70 missions. We are still receiving more each day and are processing these.”

Bapela said the highest number of applications came from London, Dubai, and Cuba.

Prisoners in the country had also been urged to register to vote.

“Registration in South Africa’s 235 correctional facilities began on 5 February [Wednesday],” said Bapela.

(With Sapa)

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IEC targets 25 million voter roll