Photo: File IOL
Elections will soon be upon us and the Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa is in full swing with its preparations.

Tallying the number of registered voters is one of these tasks.

On Thursday, the IEC hosted an elections workshop with Independent Media staff and took us through some of the numbers. It makes for some pretty shocking reading.

There are 26773995 registered voters in the country. The majority are between 20 and 60 years old. The number of voters between 18 and 19 was worrying - 204269 registered women and 163662 men.

In the Western Cape, there are just 22208 registered female voters between the ages of 18 and 19, and 16740 men.

Why are young people so reluctant to register to vote? Is the IEC doing something wrong? Is the marketing not hitting a targeted market of millennials?

Western Cape electoral officer Courtney Sampson had some choice insights into this.

“Why would somebody who orders their food on a mobile phone want to get up and physically go to a voting station to register? Or vote, for that matter?” he asked.

It’s true. I avoid my bank’s branch like the plague. The only time I go is to collect new cards and only then because I refuse to pay to have it delivered to me. Everything I need to do, I can do online or via my phone.

Need a ride? There’s an app for that. Need dinner? There’s an app for that. Need companionship? There’s an app for that. Need entertainment? There’s an app for that.

There’s a whole phenomenon combining all those things: Netflix and chill. Why is there no app for voter registration? Why do my South African friends who live in Istanbul need to travel to Ankara to cast their vote on May 8?

The answer is simple: there is no legislation. We’re gearing up our school children for the fourth industrial revolution by teaching them about AI and AR, but they have to stand in a queue with their ID cards to cast a ballot? Sounds ridiculous.

We urge Parliament to move with the times and get with the programme. Pass legislation to allow people to vote via digital means. There’s an article on it on page 10 today. The more voters on the roll who cast their vote, the stronger our democracy.

* Lance Witten is the live editor for the Cape Argus.

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