South Africa is testing 40,000 new voter devices for the coming elections – here’s what you should know

The Electoral Commission (IEC) will test its new Voter Management Devices (VMDs) for the first time at a mass scale during the upcoming voter registration weekend.

The commission said that the VMDs represent a departure from the ‘Zip-Zip’ machines, which have been in use in the registration process since 1998.

The VMD’s appearance is of a typical black touch-screen tablet, but it is capable of registering your identity documents at the correct voting station. It can also check and update your information if you have already registered to vote.

On voting day, the device will check your voting status and then allow you to enter the voting station if you are registered in the correct district. Because the device tracks this data live, no person will be able to vote twice, the commission said.

“The VMDs will essentially operate in online mode in most parts of the country. In parts of the country where internet connection is not strong or reliable, the VMDs have been provisioned to operate in offline mode. In offline mode, devices will be able to record transactions and perform verification based on data stored locally on each device.”

As soon as the VMD gets into an area of signal, it will automatically and without prompting upload the transactions stored to the device’s memory, the commission said.

It explained that the VMD’s would enable an almost instantaneous citizenship verification and the correct capturing of a residential address assisted by a mapping functionality.

“Registration applications have been loaded and at least one VMD has been allocated to each voting station on the Logistics Information System.

“The VMDs will consolidate and integrate business processes that were hitherto separated and thus inefficient. A total of 40,000 have been procured and will be in use during both the registration and election processes,” it said.

Registration weekend

The commission said that a total of 23,151 registration stations will be in operation from 08h00 until 17h00 on both Saturday and Sunday (18 and 19 September), ahead of the local government elections on 1 November.

To register, voters need to bring an identity document: a Smart Card, green barcoded book, or a temporary identification certificate.

The commission said it is essential that a voter indicates an address or a description of a place where they live.

“Proof of address is not a requirement for purposes of registration. Jurisprudence from our courts provides that the commission must record a voter’s address and ensure that each voter is registered within a ward in which they are ordinarily resident.”

The following registration protocols will apply at all registration stations during the voter registration weekend:

  • Face mask or cloth covering of the nose and mouth;
  • Social distance with a minimum of 1.5 meters; and
  • Sanitising upon entry into the registration station.

All registration staff and stations have been provided with the following items for use as preventive measures to prevent possible Covid-19 transmissions:

  • Disposable Face Mask;
  • Disposable Cardboard Bins;
  • Sanitizer Wipes;
  • Hand Sanitizer;
  • Disinfectant Fogger sprays; and
  • Social Distance markers.

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South Africa is testing 40,000 new voter devices for the coming elections – here’s what you should know