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IEC turns to online channel to boost voter registration

Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba, IT in government editor
Johannesburg, 15 Jul 2021

Ahead of this year’s local government elections, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has introduced an online voter registration portal.

The “VoterPortal” will allow new voters to register and existing voters to update or amend their registration from the comfort of their homes, says the IEC.

The electoral commission has, over the years, attempted to improve its use of technology to improve the voting process for citizens and political parties. However, pundits have continually emphasised there is room for improvement, including using smart technology during the pre-election phase to expedite voter registration.

Appearing before Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs in April, the IEC revealed plans were in place to introduce an online solution to enhance voter registration and monitor voter participation in real-time.

Yesterday, the IEC’s online voter registration portal went live, with the commission saying this is part of an on-going commitment to provide greater accessibility and convenience to voters.

“It follows the implementation of a range of other digital service channels over the past five years, including online candidate nominations, online special vote applications and online party funding declarations.”

The IEC explains the launch of the VoterPortal follows a phased approach.

The first phase was the introduction of an online service known as “click, check, confirm” ahead of the 2019 national and provincial elections, through which existing voters were able to check and amend their registration. More than 350 000 voters have made use of this system since its introduction, it states.

The second phase, made up of the launch of the online portal, allows all eligible voters – whether registered or not – to register and update their details via a computer, smartphone or tablet.

“The system will utilise a number of security checks to ensure the integrity of the voters’ roll,” says the IEC. “These include the use of a one-time-PIN verification and the submission of a scan or photograph of the voter’s ID document.

“The online registration complements other existing registration options, including on-going voter registration at all local IEC offices and various outreach initiatives at schools, tertiary education institutions and the general voter registration weekends ahead of elections.”

The electoral commission believes the online portal will be key to boosting voter registration among young and first-time voters, despite COVID-19.

Furthermore, it hopes that providing a facility whereby voters can register, check and update their registration details without having to visit an IEC office or voting station will serve to minimise congestion and ensure maximum registration.

“Due to the 24/7 nature of online registration, it will also allow voters to register and update their registration details up to the last possible moment ahead of proclamation. Proclamation has the effect of sealing the voters’ roll for purposes of an impending election.”

For people without internet-enabled smart devices, the IEC says over 23 000 voting stations will be open nationwide for the voter registration weekend on 31 July to 1 August, 8am to 5pm on both days.

South Africa will hold local government elections on Wednesday, 27 October.

Click here to view the YouTube video on how to register online.