South Africans cast their ballots at a polling station in Cape Town's Khayelitsha township, April 22, 2009. South Africans voted on Wednesday in an election expected to preserve the dominance of the African National Congress despite the strongest opposition challenge since apartheid ended 15 years ago. REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly (SOUTH AFRICA POLITICS ELECTIONS)

 Cape Town - The “born-frees” are unlikely to make a difference at the polls on May 7 because more than a million failed to register to vote.

This is despite a targeted campaign by the IEC and political parties for the “born-free” vote. Only a third of those born after 1994 have registered to cast their ballots on May 7.

Ahead of the registration period, opposition parties had emphasised the significance of the “born-free” vote, claiming it would significantly dent the ANC’s performance at the polls.

But more than a million 18- and 19-year-olds – the so-called “born-free” generation who do not necessarily follow the voting patterns of their parents – did not register.

The Independent Electoral Commission figures show only 33.6 percent of voters born after 1994 have registered.

“Born-frees” make up 2.5 percent of the 25 million registered voters in South Africa.

In the Western Cape, only 1.9 percent, or 58 536 of 2.9 million registered voters are 18 or 19 years old. People between 18 and 29 years represent 20 percent of the registered voters in the province.

IEC Western Cape head Courtney Sampson said the number of registered voters among 18- and 19-year-olds were much lower than any other age group of registered voters and this would minimise their impact at the polls.

“If you only look the number of registered voters, the major impact in numbers would come from voters between 30 and 50 years rather than those in their teens or twenties,” he said.

Sixty percent of South Africans in their twenties are registered to vote, while 90 percent and above of people older than 30 are registered.

The low levels of registration among “born-frees” means that only 646 313 out of a possible 1.9 million are ready to vote and 5.7 million out of 9.4 million of those in their twenties.

These figures are based on the IEC’s comparison between the number of registered voters and Stats SA’s population estimates for these age groups.

The voters roll is closed.

Before the closure, the IEC had waged a vigorous campaign since last year to get young voters, and especially first-time voters to register. “Born-frees” were targeted on social media and by the IEC.

“We saw a difference in the attitude of young people since we started with our campaign last year. Young people are more hyped up to vote now as political parties are campaigning,” Sampson said.

Before the last registration weekend in February, the number of registered “born-frees” was below 10 percent.

Political analyst Cherrel Africa from the University of the Western Cape said the low level of young registered voters was not unique to South Africa and mimicked trends in other countries.

“The impact of who the ‘born-frees’ vote for will be less because of the lower number of people registered among the age group,” she said.

Africa said the voting patterns of younger voters might also not be that different to older voters as they live in the same communities.

“Yes, they might not have lived through the same experience as their parents, but they still listen to them. This and other conditions have an effect on their choice of who to vote for,” she said.

ANCYL provincial task team convener Muhammad Khalid Sayed said there had been a change among young voters since last month.

“The youth... will come out to vote,” he said.

EFF provincial convener Nazier Paulsen said young people would have an impact on voting results.

DA youth chairman Yusuf Cassim said young voters were still ill-informed about registering.

“Some think they can still register,” he said.

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Cape Times