DA MP Mike Waters has introduced a private member’s bill that seeks to change the Electoral Act to allow South Africans living overseas to vote close to where they live, rather than having to cast their votes at a South African embassy, high commission or consulate in their host country, as is the case now.
As stated in the notice of intention, with the right to vote forming the foundation for all democratic political process in South Africa, it
is imperative that registration and voting mechanisms be as broad and inclusive as possible. Currently, however, the mechanisms in place for overseas based voters are falling short of this standard.
As such, the draft Bill will provide for:
- All South African citizens to be permitted to register to vote on production of a valid ID document only.
- The day designated for overseas casting of votes to necessarily fall on a weekend.
- Voting stations overseas to not be limited to consulates, embassies or high commissions, allowing for more remote voters to be able to vote without travelling great distances.
- Vote counting procedures to properly account for differences in time zones when considering
- Voters ordinarily based overseas to be provided with provincial ballots as well as national
The DA Abroad welcomes this action by Mike Waters. Over a year ago, we submitted to the IEC a number of amendments to the current legislation to improve access to voting for those abroad, which included the requirements listed above. We are aware that the IEC have submitted a Electoral Laws Amendment Bill to Parliament, but the latest version has not been shared with the DA – we are concerned that the required amends have not been included, and if included that they have not been submitted in time to be passed and implemented in advance of the elections. This has all simply been left too late, and action has not been taken swiftly enough to address the issues preventing South Africans from being able to register and vote overseas.
Update on Overseas Voter Registration
Despite DIRCO and the IEC informing us that instructions have been sent to South African missions abroad on how to register voters, we are still receiving numerous reports that South Africans are being turned away without being registered, with missions either claiming that they have not received any instructions, or informing voters that they need to post their registration application to South Africa, which is not correct.
We have also received reports of missions simply not answering their phones, and not having any information on their websites to inform South Africans how they can register to vote.
This is incredibly frustrating for those individuals who have to travel great distances to their nearest Embassy, High Commission or Consulate to register to vote. We’re aware that the IEC are engaging DIRCO in order to rectify the situation, but it is incredibly concerning that, potentially less than a year out from a national election, it is still not possible for many South Africans to be able to register to vote as is their Constitutional right.
If any South African is experiencing these issues, we encourage you to email us at email@example.com for assistance.
The right for all South Africans to vote is something the DA Abroad have been fighting for since 2009, and will keep fighting for.