The unthinkable has become reality in Cape Town on Election Day. Despite the IEC promising to provide 60 million individual ballot papers, it seems that there’s been an issue with the distribution. Scores of Capetonians have been told that their local centre has run out of voting forms.
Twitter influencer Tumi Sole and DA politician Phumzile van Damme have been amongst the most vocal critics on the mishap, expressing their frustrations on social media:
Hello @IECSouthAfrica how do you run out of ballot papers?! Two VDs in Cape Town CBD area have run out of ballot papers. Get your act together!
— Phumzile Van Damme (@zilevandamme) May 8, 2019
Cape Town voting stations “run out of ballot papers”
The IEC has responded to the criticism, saying that their teams are working on distributing more forms as soon as possible. Voting hours officially end at 19:00, but centres affected by technical issues have permission to extend their opening times. The Electoral Commission has issued their “sincere apologies”.
The DA’s Federal Executive James Selfe shared his disappointment with the news, revealing that some stations were woefully unequipped to deal with the demand of thousands of voters. He even claimed “an entire ward” ran out of ballot papers on Wednesday.
— NobesuthuH (@Nobesutu_Hejana) May 8, 2019
“No papers, no ink”
Reports of stations running out of ink could also pose a problem for voters in Cape Town. The indelible mark identifies those who have already cast their vote and prevents them from voting multiple times elsewhere. Without being able to identify the voters from the non-voters, this could end up having legal ramifications.
Marooned voters in certain parts of the municipality were faced with the decision to “stick or twist”: Some have remained where they are, whereas others have tried to find an alternative voting venue. The IEC has vowed to put things right on Wednesday afternoon:
Thanks for reporting. We're aware of the issue and our WCape staff are on it.
— IEC South Africa (@IECSouthAfrica) May 8, 2019
Why have some stations run out of ballot papers?
Courtney Simpson is the Western Cape’s Chief Electoral Officer. He explained what caused this shortage of ballot papers. The IEC, by allowing voters to cast their ballot from any station, made a rod for their own back.
According to Simpson, more people are favouring their “nearest” voting station, rather than their “registered” one. However, he did confirm that more ballot papers are now being sent to where they’re needed:
“You ballot papers are based on proportion per station. That’s why stations run out: You have a situation where the IEC needs to make sure they arrive. It takes a bit of time and it causes frustration with people who’ve turned up to vote.”
“The rain is having an effect on people, they are going to their nearest station, not their registered one. They don’t want to get wet waiting in line. Our biggest challenge is moving ballot papers to these stations which need them. Police need to be there at the handover.”
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