South Africa to get new voting machines for 2021 elections

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) will introduce new voting management devices for the 2021 municipal elections.

In a presentation to parliament this week, the commission said that the devices will replace the ‘zip-zip’ devices that had previously been used.

The commission said that the new generation technology will allow for enhanced voter registration and monitoring of voter participation in real-time, including:

  • The ability to capture an address or place of residence during registration and to verify the address against ward boundaries;
  • To serve as online real-time voters’ roll on election day to further prevent multiple voting and to provide further demographic details of voter participation.

The IEC said that would also launch a revamped public website and app for improved navigation and communications.

Other technology enhancements that the commission intends to introduce include a public reporting app for disinformation on social media.

South Africa’s 2019 national elections were marred by instances where voters were able to cast more than one vote at different voting stations.

The commission said that a number of voters had been arrested in connection with alleged double-voting, while it was forced to conduct an audit that covered a statistically representative sample of stations.

The IEC said that it has also ordered an investigation into the effectiveness of the indelible ink marker pens supplied for the elections.

A number of social media posts on voting day showed that the ink could be easily removed, leading to concerns that the lack of an identifying mark would make it easier for people to double-vote.

The IEC said that the investigation will be performed alongside the CSIR and with the full cooperation and support of the supplier.

“The results capture and verification process continues, and the Electoral Commission gives its assurance to South Africa that it will only announce results where it is 100% confident in the integrity and legitimacy of those results,” it said.

Covid-19 changes 

To prevent the elections posing a Covid-19 risk to all participants, the Electoral Commission said it will introduce a range of  special Covid-19 prevention measures, which were first introduced  for by-elections in 2020.

Some of the changes include:

  • Strict social distancing practices both outside and inside voting stations;
  • The mandatory wearing of masks over nose and mouth of all persons within the boundaries of the voting station;
  • The application of hand sanitisers to all persons entering and exiting the voting station;
  • The replacement of the traditional indelible ink marker pens with an indelible ink liquid which will be applied from a bottle to the thumb of voters using cotton buds which will be disposed after each use;
  • Protective equipment including masks, gloves and face shields was procured for election staff for voting stations and for conducting home visits for those voters who are physically disabled, infirm or pregnant.

Read: This worker in South Africa was fired for a tweet – here’s what happened

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South Africa to get new voting machines for 2021 elections