If you make a mistake on your ballot next week, this is what you should do



Published May 23, 2024


The May 29 elections are fast approaching and voters must understand the voting process to ensure their ballot counts. For instance, one could mistakenly mark their vote next to the wrong party, but is there recourse for that?

One common worry that can happen during the voting process is unintentionally spoiling a ballot, by voting for party A, instead of party B for example.

The Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) has measures in place to rectify such an error.

According to the IEC spokesperson Thabani Ngwira, voters are entitled to request a replacement ballot, but this can only be done before the voter has deposited their vote into the ballot box.

Voters can approach an election official and explain the situation. Spoiling a ballot typically means that it is marked in a way that makes your voting intention unclear such as; marking multiple candidates in a single choice, writing outside the designated areas, confusion about the instruction, a slip of the pen, or simply a mistake. This can happen easily, but election officials are ready to help you.

You will need to return the spoiled ballot to officials, they will mark it as “spoiled’’ and provide you with a new one. This process ensures that the spoiled ballot is voided and not counted, while you get a fresh opportunity to cast your ballot correctly.

“If you realise that you made a mistake on a ballot paper before it's inserted on the ballot box, you will be issued a new ballot,’’ said Ngwira.

Ngwira said the official will void the spoiled ballot, issue a new one, and direct you back to the voting booth to cast your ballot correctly.

“Your spoilt ballot will be put in a separate envelope with those types of ballots,’’ said Ngwira.

Ngiwra said polling stations are equipped with a sufficient supply of ballots to accommodate these types of errors. Election officials understand that mistakes happen, and their primary goal is to facilitate a smooth voting process for everyone.

Moreover, Ngwira said these types of ballots will not be counted with ballots that are inserted in the ballot box. This can be done no more than three times. Putting those ballots in a separate ballot assists voting station staff to tally the number of ballots issued.

Ngwira noted that the IEC has implemented several contingency plans to handle spoiled ballots effectively.

“Training for the elections officials emphasises the importance of handling spoiled ballots and guiding voters who need assistance,” said Ngwira.

Additionally, Ngwira added that the IEC has provided voter education campaigns ahead of elections.

At least 27 million people are eligible to vote on May 29.

IOL Elections