Deputy Chief Electoral Officer of the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) Masego Sheburi has warned that the judgment of the Constitutional Court will lead to a long ballot paper that will result in delays in announcing the results of the elections.
Sheburi said the fact that independent candidates would need to get 1,000 signatures this would lead to more people contesting the elections.
Sheburi said this would mean they will no longer have a ballot paper with one column, but a lengthy ballot paper and people are going to take long to cast their votes at the polling stations.
From a logistics point of view, they will need more staff to man the polling stations and manage the ballot boxes.
IEC chairperson Mosotho Moepya said given these complexities they will meet to decide on whether the elections will be held over one day as prescribed by the law.
But that will be determined by the number of parties and independent candidates contesting the elections, as well as the nature and format of the ballot paper.
Sheburi said there were currently 578 political parties that are registered and 360 of them are registered to contest national and provincial elections.
The IEC was on Friday briefing the the National Assembly’s Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs on the implications of the Constitutional Court judgment that independent candidates would not require 15% of signatures to contest elections, but only 1,000 signatures.
Sheburi also told the committee that there is no guarantee that the results will be released within three days, as has happened in the past, but they will try to meet the legal requirement of releasing results within seven days.
“It is obvious the cost of administering elections will increase with the relative increase in the number of contestants. The more the contestants, the more paper you need to generate a ballot paper. As we said in the past, we are now in the realm of a ballot paper that is beyond one column.
“Now, we are seriously in the realm of a ballot paper that is at least two columns and more than one page. We are in the realm of a ballot booklet and no longer a ballot paper because anyone who can get 1,000 signatures and raise a deposit will appear on the ballot paper,” said Sheburi.
The increase in the number of parties and independent candidates contesting the elections will lead to more costs for additional ballot papers and ballot boxes.
If they were going to use lengthy ballot papers it would mean the ballot boxes at the polling stations will fill up quickly.
The IEC will need additional staff to manage its voting stations. Currently, the IEC has hired more than 70,000 staff members in over 23,000 voting stations across the country.
Sheburi said this new complex logistical challenge will have an impact on the announcement of the results.
“’The commission has always released results within three days from the date of an election, even after considering objections that are material to the outcome of that election. We are no longer able to guarantee that will be the case because if you have long ballot papers it is going to take longer to vote.
“It’s going to take longer to count, it’s going to take longer to translate those ballot papers into results. We are contemplating at looking at the result announcement that is beyond three days, but we will still work within the legally required seven days to release the results,” said Sheburi.
Sheburi said they were still going to look at the logistics for the elections after this judgment and how they will have to manage some of the processes.