The much anticipated 2016 municipal elections started on Monday for the 719 225 people allowed a special vote.
A special vote accommodates people who cannot get to their voting station on the big day, because they have a physical condition, or because they will not be in the vicinity of their voting station.
This means some forward planning by voters like truck drivers, police officials, airline staff, the media, and people in retirement homes and hospitals, as this requires a special application in advance.
The South African Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) received more than 740 000 applications for special votes for this election – more than three times the number received in 2011, and nearly double that received in 2014.
Of the 719 225 approved special voters nationwide, 315 597 (44%) were for home visits and 403 628 (56%) were for early votes at polling stations on Monday and Tuesday.
An excited voting station official at the Leibrandt Van Niekerk community hall in Tableview (Ward 113) in Cape Town said their first voter arrived as soon as they opened at 08:00. “He came in on his way to work,” said the official, who expected 83 special voters there before the 17:00 cut-off time on Monday and Tuesday.
The official had already sent off the required SMS to say that they were open for voting.
Western Cape IEC spokesperson Trevor Davids said: “The voting stations opened okay. We are up and running, everything is operational.”
For this election, 200 parties and 61 014 candidates were certified by the IEC on June 27 2016. A total of 26 333 353 people are registered to vote across the country, in what is expected to be one the country’s most exciting elections.
Voting times for special votes are from 08:00 to 17:00 on Monday and Tuesday – different to Wednesday’s voting hours of 07:00 to 19:00.
A police van was parked outside the Tableview voting station, in line with the precautions being taken countrywide. Potential problems flagged for this election include floods and intra-party fighting.
On Monday and Tuesday, IEC officials will also be travelling to the homes of voters who had requested this in the special-vote process. This is for the housebound, elderly, sick, disabled, and for pregnant women who do not feel up to standing in a long queue. The officials only go to them once, so they are expected to wait at home until they have been visited.
An official in a small voting station in a library in Dunoon, outside Cape Town, said they were ready for the seven special voters registered at their station. The voting booth is squeezed between shelves of books in the facility, which is situated off the suburb’s potholed road.
Anybody who has registered for a special vote, but is not able to vote on one of the two special-vote days, is still allowed to vote at their voting station on election day, according to the IEC.
The special vote gets the same security and secrecy as everybody else’s vote and the special votes will be stored overnight and opened and reconciled with the ordinary votes cast on August 3. – News24