IEC in bid to reduce contact at voting stations to eliminate Covid-19 spread
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Pretoria – As South Africans go to the polls on November 1 amid a raging Covid-19 pandemic, the Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) is encouraging voters to carry their own pens to the voting stations in the hotly contested local government elections across the country.
“We’ve made that call, and you will see it in all our television and social media adverts. We are saying, to minimize contact, we encourage people to bring their own pens, even if it can provide (the stationery) if someone forgets,” said IEC national spokesperson Kate Bapela.
“We encourage people to bring their own pens to reduce sharing of all sorts of things in the voting station. Remember, in a voting station, hands move from one station to the other, so we are trying to reduce that people transfer a lot.”
She said if a voter is carrying their own pen, the IEC officials will hand them ballot papers then the individual walks into the voting booth.
“If you have your own pen, they just give you your ballot papers, then you get into the voting booth, you vote and put into the box then you’re out of the voting station, so there is as little contact as possible.”
Earlier this year, budget cuts compelled the (IEC) to hold one voter registration weekend instead of two ahead of the municipal elections to be held in November.
This was revealed by chief electoral commissioner Sy Mamabolo when he briefed the co-operative governance and traditional affairs portfolio committee in April.
“We all know that because of Covid-19, departments have their budgets reduced. That is the case at the IEC, too,” Mamabolo said.
“As a result, the IEC, on this occasion, would be able to offer a single registration weekend instead of the normal two,” he said.
A presentation to the committee showed that the electoral body was requested to make budget cuts of R109 million in the current financial year.
Ahead of the 17-18 July voter registration weekend, the IEC also encouraged voters to bring their own pens.
“Voters visiting a voting station in person to register or update their details are reminded that they must wear a mask or appropriate face covering and observe social distancing. Hand sanitising facilities, as well as stationery, will be provided at each voting station. Voters wishing to bring their own pen are encouraged to do so even though pens will be provided and sanitised routinely,” Bapela said at the time.