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Cape set for a record poll

Voters in Makhaza, Khayelitsha, get an early start outside a polling station. The Independent Electoral Commission says it's expecting a good voter turnout across the province.

Voters in Makhaza, Khayelitsha, get an early start outside a polling station. The Independent Electoral Commission says it's expecting a good voter turnout across the province.

Published May 18, 2011

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CLAYTON BARNES

Political Writer

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THE INDEPENDENT Electoral Commission is predicting that the turn-out for today’s local government election will be the highest yet and that more than 50 percent of registered voters are likely to make their mark.

The IEC and election observers have hailed the Western Cape’s residents for turning out in numbers to cast their ballots.

Western Cape IEC head Courtney Sampson, speaking from the organisation’s results centre in Bellville this morning, said he was overwhelmed and happy that people had started queuing outside polling stations as early as 6.30am.

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“I can sense the excitement. Early reports indicate that everything is going well. All voting stations opened on time,” he said.

Sampson said he was confident that voter turnout would be higher than in previous years and would be more than 50 percent of registered voters.

There are 2.7 million voters in the Western Cape – 1.8 million of them in Cape Town.

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Western Cape elections observer, the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba, said he was “impressed” by the turnout this morning.

“The nation is maturing, people are realising that they can make a difference by casting their vote,” said Makgoba.

Across Cape Town, voters started queueing in the dark, braving the early-morning chill and waiting patiently for polling stations to open at 7am. No problems were reported at polling stations.

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Among those voting were Western Cape premier and DA leader Helen Zille, DA mayoral candidate Patricia de Lille and the ANC’s candidate, Tony Ehrenreich.

After casting her vote in Rondebosch, Zille said: “This is a big day for our democracy and racial lines are broken down. Every party has to earn your vote and you never just give your vote away.”

Asked whether she was confident of a win for the DA in Cape Town, Zille said: “We will work until the last second of the last hour of the last day and can never be confident about anything until the fat lady sings.”

Ehrenreich voted in Uitsig. After emerging from the polling station, he said that if elected as mayor, he and the ANC would work to “build an African city” that would meet the needs of its people.

De Lille, who voted in Pinelands, said she had worked very hard and was tired.

But today, she said, it was the turn of the voters to speak, and anything could happen.

The first election results are expected to start trickling in from 10 tonight – three hours after voting stations close, says the IEC.

It has seven days in which to declare the results, but Sampson is confident ballots will be counted and captured by Friday.

He

said the province’s 1 572 voting stations would be turned into makeshift counting stations from 7pm, or after the last person in the queue had voted.

Apart from several senior IEC staff and political party agents verifying the results, independent auditors would check the result slips from every voting district before the final results were captured on the provincial system.

“The results will be counted and captured, sent to the provincial results centre, and faxed and scanned to the national office,” he said.

Unlike previous years, the results from voting districts in the City of Cape Town will be captured and released as they become available. In the past, the IEC waited for results from voting districts across the metro before they were captured and released.

“This time, we’ll be able to have results from pockets within the metro as they become available.”

Sampson said about 16 000 IEC staff and volunteers would be on duty in the Western Cape today.

A presiding officer in the Berg River area had been dismissed on Monday after allegedly “inadvertently placing a special voter’s cross” in the wrong block.

“We didn’t want to take any risks and decided to replace the presiding officer immediately.”

The first results from smaller municipalities are expected to start coming in from 10 tonight.

IEC officials are confident that the final results will be announced on Saturday at the latest.

Sampson said the province’s 12-member conflict-management team had dealt with several complaints over the past few weeks, including posters being removed, candidates being assaulted and name-calling.

“We will deploy members to areas that might be problematic,” he said.

Sampson said the police and army would be on standby but “smaller matters” would be dealt with by the conflict-management team.

“We are ready for any eventuality and will be in constant contact with the police,” he said. “If there are difficulties, we have a plan B.”

Sampson said he would be concerned if the number of spoilt ballots cast was above 2 percent.

“Usually, it is between 0.5 and 1 percent in the Western Cape. When there is uncertainty about a spoilt ballot, the party agents are called in and a decision is made.

“If the person drew a smiling face or made a tick next to a party’s block instead of a cross, the voter’s intention is known and we accept it.”

A joint police operations centre, similar to that used during last year’s World Cup, has been set up and some of the province’s top cops and intelligence personnel have been based there for the week. They will monitor hotspots and deploy members where they are needed, police spokesman Colonel Andre Traut has said.

About 10 000 police officers will be on duty at voting stations across the province.

“But this will not disrupt the usual service delivery in communities and police stations,” said Traut.

He warned that police would not allow anyone to disrupt or interfere with the election process.

“Our intelligence teams are monitoring some of the threats in certain communities, but there are no major threats at this stage.” – Additional reporting by Natasha Bezuidenhout

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