IEC urges youth to register to vote in elections

The Western Cape electoral officer at the Independent Electoral Commission, Courtney Sampson.

When the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) officially launched the 2019 national and provincial elections last week, its focus was on encouraging the youth to register to vote.

The launch was held at the Old Granary building in Buitenkant Street on Friday January 18. It was on the steps of this building where the local government announced the elections in the past. It was recently revamped and now houses the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation.

In her address, the IEC’s deputy chief electoral officer, Dr Nomsa Masuku, said ensuring greater participation of young people was fundamental to the ongoing success of democracy, which is why the IEC was directing its campaign at the young people of South Africa.

“While exercising this right is not compulsory, a large number of citizens believe that they should participate. We are fortunate to have this healthy participation, and there are a number of reasons, I believe, for this.

“One of them is that democracy in this country is still young. This year we celebrate the 25th anniversary of South Africa’s democratic elections. We are also in District Six, where the memories of our dark past are fresh in the minds of our people. The generation of this time knows the cost of voting and appreciation of voting, and I believe each generation must teach the next generation about the importance of putting an X on the ballot paper.”

The word created to target young South Africans and get them to register to vote is Xsê.

Western Cape electoral officer Courtney Sampson, also expressed concern at the low number of young people who were registered to vote, particularly 18- and 19-year-olds. He said the IEC would visit tertiary institutions to get young people registered. During this week, the IEC would go into the 28 correctional services facilities to make sure offenders exercised their right to vote and this weekend, on Saturday and Sunday January 26 and 27, voting stations around the Western Cape will be open for voter registration.

In the Western Cape, there are 1 582 voting stations and 36 temporary voting stations which will all be functional over registration weekend.

“We acknowledge that not everyone will make it to the voting stations. These people will have to come to the IEC offices to register. It is in the interest of the IEC to make sure the voters roll is well populated before we start with the elections,” said Mr Sampson.

From Friday February 1 until Monday February 4, South African citizens who are abroad will have a chance to register at the South African embassies in the respective countries.

From Thursday February 7 until Sunday February 10, the IEC will go to tertiary institutions, especially where there are residences.

Dr Masuku said when it came to the elderly and disabled, “we visit the areas where they are, and all our messages are available in all 11 official languages, as well as braille and sign language.

“We have recruited and trained people from the disability sector, but if you as a citizen feel there is someone we are not reaching, please let us know.”

All South African citizens aged 16 and older with an official ID document can register, but only those who are 18 years old and over will be allowed to vote.

To register, voters will need to take their South African ID book or card, and they will need to provide their address or a description of where they live. Proof of address is not required.

Mr Sampson said while the date of the national and provincial elections had not yet been set, once the date had been proclaimed in the government gazette, registration would close.