Pretoria - Get ready to vote, because electoral officials are getting ready to count your crosses. And if you’re not old enough to vote yet, you can still play the Independent Electoral Commission’s new voter game on your cellphone.
In Pretoria, at the IEC national results operation centre (ROC), the flags are up, the computers switched on, the wi-fi in progress, party officials are arriving and the IEC has promised they are ready to deliver credible elections.
The ROC at the Tshwane Events Centre is the IEC’s national nerve centre for the next 10 days or so.
It’s the R12-million hub from where the IEC runs the election, co-ordinates the counting and declares the final results.
“We are ready and look forward to a highly successful free, fair and credible election,” chief electoral officer Mosotho Moepya said when the ROC was launched on Wednesday.
IEC chairwoman Pansy Tlakula and vice-chairman Terry Tselane were there to confirm this.
IEC deputy chief electoral officer for electoral operations Sy Mamabolo expects the results to be officially declared on Saturday – three days after the election.
The law gives the IEC seven days to do so but three is standard nowadays.
Mamabolo hopes next time it will be a little quicker.
“It won’t be possible in this election but it is my wish for the future, so we don’t hold the country in anticipation,” he said.
Mamabolo has been part of the elections team since 1998 and said the best improvement over the years was the move to electronic systems.
In 1999, the IEC had to fax results slips all over the country.
“Paper gets lost and it was too painful,” said Mamabolo.
Now it’s all online.
Political parties and observers get read-only access to the IEC system at the ROC to see the results in real time as they are totalled.
“It does defuse the tension. You can see the build-up of your win or loss,” said Mamabolo.
Most of the equipment at the ROC is rented but the computers are left over from a system the IEC recently replaced.
“They’ll do the job,” said Mamabolo.
There’s no chance that parties can fiddle the results on that computer system.
“Parties will have access to the reports functionality and not the input functionality,” said Mamabolo.
Computers may help but every election more parties join the contest. This makes counting votes on those longer ballot papers a little harder.
“The presiding officers have to be more alert,” said Mamabolo.
Every election there’s something new, and this year it’s the mobile applications. Get online and find them at www.elections.org.za
Tselane said the IEC had created mobile applications and application programming interfaces (APIs) to provide real-time data to the public.
“The mobile app allows voters to check their registration status, find their voting station, receive updates on applications for special votes, find out who their ward councillor is and receive other notifications from the IEC,” said Tselane.
The APIs provide information to the public and allow others – such as political parties – to disseminate this information to others on their own websites and mobile applications.
And then there’s the game, aimed at young voters and those not old enough to vote yet.
“This free download from app stores is a digital game.
“First-time voters can learn about the entire voting process – including what documents are needed and how to make their mark – in a fun, 3D digital game,” said Tselane.
“They can share their scores online via social media and challenge their friends to play and beat their scores.”
The ROC has a stand for gamers who want a break from the number crunching of the elections.
By Sunday, May 11, it should be all over and time to pack up.
“That Sunday I’m hoping for a good sleep,” said Mamabolo. - Pretoria News
25 362 179 registered voters
212 000 IEC officials
22 263 voting stations
IEC’s national results operation centre (ROC)
Cost R12 million
Runs for about 10 days
11 000m2 of space
300 telephone points
More than 20km of fibre optics and data cabling
800 electrical plug points
Generators for power back-up
Facilities for 29 political parties
Wi-fi capable of handling 200 concurrent users
Additional cellphone capacity installed
More than 30 media organisations