IEC goes online to capture voter addresses

Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba, IT in government editor
Johannesburg, 12 Oct 2017
The Electoral Commission encourages the use of MyIEC to update or capture voter addresses.
The Electoral Commission encourages the use of MyIEC to update or capture voter addresses.

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has turned to technology to support its efforts to capture the addresses of over 26 million registered voters before 30 June 2018.

In 2016, the Constitutional Court ordered the IEC to correctly capture the addresses of all registered voters on the voters' roll before the 2019 general elections.

Yesterday, the IEC unveiled MyIEC, an online portal that allows South African voters to submit or update their registration details when they have changed address or when there has been a change in their identity number.

While it has encouraged the use of the online platform to fast-track the recording of all registered voters, it has emphasised the portal does not allow for online voter registration.

To become a registered voter, citizens will still need to visit their local IEC office, it points out.

"The system allows for voters to change addresses as often as they move to ensure that voters' details are always updated," says IEC business systems ICT manager Melanie Du Plessis.

Security concerns

The implementation of online systems in relation to the democratic voting process often brings up concerns of security, especially where citizens' sensitive information is concerned.

In the wake of the presidential elections in the US at the end of last year, details of attacks on that country's voting systems were revealed, with reports saying Russian hackers compromised systems and databases. Bloomberg reported that Russia's cyber attack on the US electoral system included "incursions into voter databases and software systems".

IEC officials have tried to allay citizens' cyber security fears. Vice-chairperson Terry Tselane says: "Even though we are confident with our systems, what we normally do ahead of every election, we get all our political parties to check with their IT experts to check vulnerabilities. The process helps us close all the loopholes that are in the system."

Newly appointed chief electoral officer Sy Mamabolo has urged voters to use the online platform. "The MyIEC platform is secure, easy to use and providing your address will only take a few minutes."

According to the IEC, voters can log onto the IEC Web site in order to capture their addresses. Once voters have created their profile on the site, they can easily locate their address on the map provided or fill in their address manually.

The platform also includes features which allow the user to pinpoint their address on a map provided on the site.

The ward or district where the voter is registered will be verified and a notification will be sent. If it is found that the voter is registered in the wrong ward, according to section 11 and 12 of the Electoral Act, the chief electoral officer can allocate the voter to a ward.

Voters would also need to sign a declaration included on their profile as acknowledgement that their details are accurate. If information provided is found to be false, the IEC will take the necessary steps against the voter.

Limited access

In addition to the security issue, there are other limitations with introducing an online-driven system to capture voters' addresses, such as the lack of Internet access for all South Africans.

According to the IEC, to combat the issue of access, it has engaged mobile service providers to assist in reducing costs.

"We had a meeting with the service providers where we spoke on the issue of zero-rating, which entails that data costs are reduced or users pay a certain amount of the cost. I must say mobile service providers are open to engagement. The engagement was quite positive," says deputy chief electoral officer Nomsa Masuku.

Furthermore, the Chapter 9 Institution has been engaging with National Treasury to assist with funding for more initiatives, with the hopes of running an opening voter weekend which allows voters a chance to check and provide their addresses face-to-face.

"So far, the Treasury has made a R180 million available to us, which will assist us in carrying through our initiatives," notes Mamabolo.