We receive a lot of emails from South Africans living abroad asking if they can vote in national elections, what they need to do to vote and how they can vote, amongst many other questions, so we’ve put together this basic guide based on our knowledge and experience during the 2014 national elections.
We will be lobbying for better access to voting for South Africans abroad ahead of the 2019 elections, so the information may change. Generally, we recommend that if you have any specific questions you check out the IEC website (www.elections.org.za), but if you’re still unable to find the answer you’re welcome to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll do our best to help you out.
Section 19 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa (Act 108 of 1996) upholds that all South Africans living abroad can vote in national elections. South Africans living abroad can currently only vote at South African embassies, consulates and high commissions. And to vote you must have previously registered in South Africa and have a valid ID book with you at the time of voting.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. When are the next South African National Elections?
South Africans will go to the polls again in 2019. The date of the election will be proclaimed by the President closer to the time. It’s essential that you are registered to vote before the date the election is proclaimed as registration will not be available from the proclamation until after the elections.
Note: South Africans abroad can’t vote in Local Government Elections.
2. Why do I have to register?
To vote your name must appear on the Voter’s Roll. The Voter’s Roll contains particulars of voters and it is an important tool to protect against electoral fraud e.g. to ensure that individuals only vote once.
3. How do I find out if I’m already registered?
Visit the AmIRegistered page on the IEC website and submit your ID Number.
For your registration status and voting station details, you can also SMS your ID Number to 32810 (R1.00 per SMS sent or received) – this function is only available if you are in the Republic of South Africa, therefore, we strongly suggest that you visit the above website.
4. What do I need to register?
- be a South African citizen;
- be at least 16 years old; and
- have a valid current green, bar-coded South African ID book or Smart ID card.
- a valid South African passport or temporary passport if you are registering abroad
5. Can I register to vote while abroad?
Yes, the Electoral Amendment Act 2013 gave all South African citizens the right to register and vote abroad in national elections. Important: In order to vote abroad, you must be registered AND submit a VEC10 notification within the period specified on the election’s timetable (15 days from the date on which the election is proclaimed). For more info on this please visit the IEC website.
6. Where can I register abroad?
You can apply for registration at your nearest South African embassy, high commission or consulate-general (see www.dfa.gov.za/foreign/sa_abroad/index.htm for locations and contact info) during their normal office hours. Please note that it is not possible to register or vote at honorary consulates or liaison offices. If you are travelling to South Africa, you can also register to vote at a local Municipal Electoral Office (MEO) during office hours prior to an election. We strongly urge you to contact your local MEO prior to your trip to confirm their opening times and the dates that you will be able to register to vote. For more info on this please visit the IEC website.
7. When can I register abroad?
You can register during the embassy, high commission or consulate-general’s normal working hours (please see www.dfa.gov.za/foreign/sa_abroad/index.htm for contact info, and phone for opening hours). While registration is ongoing, you must apply for registration before an election is proclaimed (published in the Government Gazette) to be able to vote in that election. For more info on this please visit the IEC website.
8. What documentation do I need to take with me to register?
You need to take BOTH your green, bar-coded South African ID book; Smartcard ID; or valid Temporary Identity Certificate, AND your valid South African passport or temporary passport. Both documents are essential and must be valid, and no other identity document can be accepted. Only original documents can be accepted, no copies.
9. My Passport & ID Book have different Surnames. Do I need to re-register?
This question is generally asked by those who have married and their maiden name still appears in either their Passport or ID Book/Smart ID.
According to the IEC – “You do not need to re-register. The IEC use your ID number and check it against the National Population Register (NPR). They get your name as it’s reflected on the NPR (the Department of Home Affairs automatically changes your name when you get married), and that is the name that appears on the Voters’ Roll.”
You can apply for a new ID/Passport reflecting your changed name if you want to. These new documents can be applied for at any SA Mission abroad or at Home Affairs in South Africa.
10. What is the current voting abroad process?
Voting abroad is a “Special Vote” and is allowed for those who cannot vote at a voting station where they are registered including those South African citizens temporarily absent from the Republic for the purposes of a holiday, business trip, educational visit or participation in an international sporting event. However, South Africans abroad are only allowed to cast their vote in a general election at the main South African Diplomatic Post of the country they reside in if:
- they have previously registered in South Africa to vote;
- they inform the IEC of their intention to vote by completing the relevant form (the VEC10)and sending it to the IEC before the closing date;
- they present the voting confirmation received from the IEC together with their current valid South African ID book and passport when attending the Embassy to vote
11. What can I do now?
If you are not already registered please ensure you register as soon as possible. As you will need your original South African ID book to be able to vote please ensure to bring your ID along with you when you plan to travel abroad for extended periods during election years. You will not be able to vote with only your passport. Your ID book is mandatory to be able to vote locally or internationally. Closer to the elections the IEC will release more details about the VEC10 form and when it needs to be submitted by.
If you have any further questions or require information, please email email@example.com.
It is the democratic right and duty of each South African citizen to vote – please ensure that you register and vote in the next election to keep our democracy alive.