What South Africans searched for online on election day

Read time 4min 40sec

With the voting part of the 2019 South African elections completed, most citizens are now glued to their TV screens, online or social media platforms, turning their attention to vote-counting.

At the time of writing, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) confirmed results have been trickling in overnight, with the leader board at the Results Operations Centre in Pretoria showing just over 2.9 million of the valid votes cast had been counted so far.

Before the electorate marked X next to the leader of their favoured political party, there were a few questions some hoped Internet search giant, Google, would address.

While "South Africa elections 2019" took top spot as the Google trending search term on Wednesday, with over 500 000 searches, voters were also interested in basic information like "How to check your voting station".

At 10am today, data from the search engine showed "IEC results" was top of mind for many South Africans, with the topic having reached over 200 000 searches.

The next most searched terms for voting topics include "Elections 2019", "EFF" (Economic Freedom Fighters), "SA elections 2019" and "voting stations near me". Local users were also interested in the "ACDP", "political parties 2019", "voting times", as well as "voting results so far".

There was interest in party officials like Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane and EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi.

Aside from queries about voting stations and time, people also searched for EFF leader Julius Malema's wife, with over 2 000 searches recorded.

Missing ink issue

Twitter users were also interested in all things #SAElections19 and #ElectionResults, including the issue of voters who were able to remove the ink on their thumbs and cast more than one vote at different voting stations on Wednesday.

Indelible ink is one of the security measures employed by the IEC and used to mark a voter's thumb to avoid instances of voting twice. However, yesterday some voters showed their ink had disappeared.

In a statement, the IEC said an investigation has been launched into instances of double voting.

"Two separate instances have been brought to the attention of the Electoral Commission over the past few hours, in which it is alleged voters were able to cast more than one vote at different voting stations."

The IEC stressed the election process contains a number of checks and safeguards, which together serve to protect the integrity of the processes.

According to the IEC, all of these leave a detailed footprint of voter participation in the process and can be used both separately and in combination to identify instances of electoral fraud.

"As part of the process of finalising the results of the elections, the commission will assess data from scanners, VEC 4 forms (used when voters vote outside their voting districts) and the voters' roll to identify potential risks," it says.

Where evidence is found to support electoral fraud, the IEC said it will firstly quarantine the results of the affected voting districts and then pursue criminal charges against the perpetrators.

"The Electoral Commission appeals to any party or person who may have evidence of any electoral fraud or significant irregularity to report this immediately so that it can be thoroughly investigated.

"The Electoral Commission will not allow the potential misconduct of one or two individuals - be they voters or election officials - to taint the overall outcome of these elections," the statement reads.

Thumb snaps

Voters used popular social network sites like Facebook and Instagram to share snaps of their inked-up thumbs, showing they have made their mark for the national and provincial elections.

Ahead of SA's elections, Facebook said it is working to ensure the integrity of the elections.

The South African elections came at a time when Facebook, with over two billion users globally and about 14 million active users daily in SA, faced backlash over the past two years for not acting fast enough to combat fake news, propaganda operations and extremist content spread on its platforms.

Scandals that hit Facebook in 2018 included data privacy issues, election interference and spreading of fake news.

Facebook users have taken to the social networking platform to voice their displeasure with some of the issues encountered during the voting process. The news that some IEC voting stations ran out of ballot papers early Wednesday morning and the issue of the indelible ink were popular discussion points.

Meanwhile, as the election votes continue to be counted at the IEC Results Operations Centre, the election management body's results dashboard is live, and voters can follow a blow-by-blow account of the election results.

The IEC site is dedicated to all things voting, including checking registration status and a portal to check and update your address online.

The Mail and Guardian also has a live elections 2019 results dashboard, supplying information about the national vote and citizen votes in their respective municipalities. News24 is also bringing citizens live updates of the results.

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