CSIR predictions not far off as vote counting concludes

Admire Moyo
By Admire Moyo, ITWeb's news editor.
Johannesburg, 31 May 2024
Millions of South Africans braved long queues at voting stations.
Millions of South Africans braved long queues at voting stations.

Vote counting for the National and Provincial Elections 2024 has now been completed, and the process to capture and validate results is under way.

This is according to Sy Mamabolo, Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) chief electoral officer.

Mamabolo briefed media at the IEC’s National Results Operations Centre in Midrand on Thursday afternoon.

According to the IEC, once the results have been counted and finalised, the presiding officer and party agents will, in the presence of observers, sign the result slip, which will then be placed in a tamper-evident bag and transported to the capture centre.

At the results capture centre, a check and balance process will ensue, it notes, adding this includes checking that the result slip is on the correct form, has details of the voting station and those of the presiding officer, as well as a voting station unique barcode. It is then captured onto the system using the double-blind method.

Using the barcode, the results slip is then scanned and the results are electronically matched with the appropriate voting district.

External auditors will then audit the results slip to ensure it is captured correctly.

The results are then taken through the commission’s exception parameters. If an exception is flagged, the results are investigated and taken through the recapture process, says the IEC.

Once the results pass the test, it will then become final and available to political parties, independent candidates and the media, says the commission.

Dashboard scare

As the counting has concluded, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) utilised its election night prediction model.

According to the think tank, the prediction model relies on two core principles: the analysis of voter behaviour patterns and the sequence in which voting results are announced on election day.

When combined, these enable the team to group voters or voting districts based on their past voting behaviour, utilising a statistical clustering method, it states.

The model was first introduced during the 1999 general election. Since then, it has been employed during the last 10 South African national and municipal elections.

The IEC’s dashboard, which displays the national election results, at the Johannesburg-based Results Operating Centre, briefly crashed on Friday morning before it was restored.

Electoral Commission of South Africa chief electoral officer Sy Mamabolo. (Photograph source: GCIS)
Electoral Commission of South Africa chief electoral officer Sy Mamabolo. (Photograph source: GCIS)

Following the brief outage, the electoral body reassured the public that the data in the data centre remains intact and the results have not been compromised.

ITWeb looked at the predictions made by the CSIR model versus the preliminary results that had been on the dashboard at the time of writing.

The preliminary results show the ruling party − the African National Congress (ANC) − was leading the national race, with 41.89% after garnering 3 323 421 votes. The Democratic Alliance (DA) was second on 23.53% from 1 867 043, with Jacob Zuma’s MK Party coming third (11.11%) from 881 170. The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) was sitting at 9.54% from 756 613 votes.

The CSIR model predicts that nationally, the ANC will get 42% of the votes. It shows the Democratic Alliance will get 22.3%, MK Party 12.8% and EFF 9%.

According to the think tank, when applied in previous elections, the model typically achieved a high degree of accuracy at a national level once approximately 5% of the results had been tallied.

The CSIR adds that predictions become more stable and accurate as more voting districts are counted, ultimately converging to the final results once all voting districts have been declared.

Real heroes

Meanwhile, Mamabolo said by 4pm on Thursday, results had been concluded for 22.6% of the voting districts – representing at least 2.3 million votes cast.

The rate of the results captured is as follows:

  • Gauteng has captured 28%
  • Limpopo 26%
  • North West 36%
  • Northern Cape 63%
  • Free State 56%
  • KwaZulu-Natal 23%
  • Mpumalanga 42%
  • Eastern Cape 58%
  • Western Cape 57%

“A result is considered complete only when a result slip has been scanned into an image, captured onto the results system, audited by independent auditors and has gone through the automated results system exception parameters,” Mamabolo explained.

He revealed the last ballot to be cast on election day was in Tshwane, Gauteng, with the first results coming from the Eastern Cape.

“True to its undertaking, the commission assisted all voters that were in the queue by 21h00. Just after midnight, the commission announced the first result. This was in a voting district in the Winnie Madikizela Mandela Municipality in the Eastern Cape,” he said.

He thanked the millions of South Africans who braved long queues at voting stations and other challenges to make their mark in these elections.

“The Electoral Commission thanks the real heroes of the 2024 National and Provincial Elections. They are South Africans who stood in the queues and electoral staff who worked tirelessly to process the votes.

“The commitment and patience shown by the voters and electoral staff demonstrates their commitment to our electoral democracy,” Mamabolo said.