There has been an almost 50% drop in voter registration of 18 to 19-year-olds. File picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town - Figures released by the Parliamentary Monitoring Group show a 47% drop in voter registration in the 18-19 age group for next month’s elections.

This translates to 341 236 young voters registered compared with the 646 313 in 2014.

Western Cape Provincial Electoral Commission head Courtney Sampson put this down to the fact that people have to physically register to vote and cannot do so via electronic media, something that this age group was used to.

“Presently the Electoral Act requires that a person must register in person. It is not possible to do anything else legally. The act must be changed to make provision for other forms of registration to make it easier for younger voters,” he said.

However, the Electoral Commission of SA’s (IECs) senior manager, electoral matters, Granville Abrahams, is upbeat about the role that technology can play to help beat this huge drop.

He said the commission had aimed to replace registration hardware and software applications before the elections. “But procurement challenges made this impossible.

“This would have sidestepped the challenge of the current registration process, which requires locating an applicant on a physical map and then using a barcode associated with that map to register an applicant in the voting district where they are ‘ordinarily resident’.

“The IEC’s focus is on using technology to replace the need for a physical map and barcodes, thus allowing the voters roll to be updated remotely and immediately,” Abrahams said.

“In late February a two-week pilot of such a web-based application proved highly successful. The success of this pilot paves the way for greater interaction with schools, where the IEC is already active with democracy education.

“This technology is bound to make an impact on the next elections.”

Judith February, the author of the research, said it was curious that the IEC had not advised Parliament on this big drop in the 18- to 19-year-old registration category.

“It is incumbent on the IEC to point this sort of significant information to Parliament,” she said.

Cape Argus