A starter pack for first-time voters at the 2019 elections

Everything you need to know if you’re voting for the first time on May 8 2019

06 May 2019 - 15:22
What you need to know if you’re voting for the first time.
What you need to know if you’re voting for the first time.
Image: 123RF/archnoi1

It is almost hard to believe that a quarter of a century has passed since SA's first fully democratic elections were held in 1994. For many, etched into our collective national psyche are images of long lines of eager voters – the majority of whom were casting their votes for the first time in their lives.

These images, which have become an international symbol for the miracle of democracy, were the culmination of a lengthy period of voter education and awareness programmes that pervaded every sphere of South African life. As was fitting then (and now), nothing about this important day was left to individual interpretation.

On Wednesday May 8 2019, between 7am and 9pm, more than 26m South Africans will have the opportunity to show off their expertise in this area once again as the country heads to the polls in its fifth democratic general election. For first-time voters wishing to learn more about this all-important duty of citizenship, here is a short guide to voting that may also be useful to those who need a refresher.

First things first: where is your ID?

Most of us only ever see our ID books (or cards) when we need a certified copy to submit with an application for a job or school admission, or when we need to go to the bank. With the election only a few days away, you may be panicking because you have misplaced your ID. You also need your green barcoded ID book (or your modern ID card) to vote. No, you may not use your driver’s licence, student card or any other form of ID.

The only acceptable substitute is a temporary ID issued by the department of home affairs. If you haven’t applied for a replacement, all offices of the department nationwide will be open from 7am to 9pm on May 8 to issue temporary IDs to voters. So take a deep breath and relax – your government has you covered.

Where are you going to cast your vote?

Do you know where your polling station is? Use the voting station finder on the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) website to help you locate your polling station. When you access the site, there is a prominently marked area on the landing page where you can enter your ID number and search for the name and address of the polling station where you are eligible to vote.

It’s important to check your registration details so you are able to cast both ballots – one for the national election, the other for the provincial election.

For the general election, you are able to vote at a polling station other than the one you are officially registered at, although this is not ideal, nor advisable. If you are in a different province from the one where you are registered, you will only be able to vote in the national election, not the provincial one. The rules are much stricter for local government elections, so remember this well.

Ready, set, GO!

So, you’ve found your polling station and you have your ID with you. The only thing left to do now is cast your ballots. Remember, you must get two ballots – one for the provincial election and the other for the national election.

Not sure what the difference is? Click the link below to read a quick guide:

With 48 political parties contesting the national election, and a varied number of parties contesting in each of the nine provinces, the ballot is going to be longer than your arm. To avoid a sudden onset of panic at the sight of the ballot, do your homework beforehand. The IEC has a website that leads to all the election manifestos. Go through them carefully so you can make an informed decision.

The parties contesting the 2019 national and provincial elections

Click here to view the candidate listing.

If you do panic and make a mark on the ballot that you didn’t intend to make, simply raise your hand to inform one of the election officials on duty and they will replace your spoiled ballot with a fresh one. Look through the list of parties on your ballot carefully and mark your choice of party on the ballot with a single and clear “X”. Fold your ballot in half and only once, and cast it in the correct box – an official will be on hand to assist you if you find yourself a bit confused.

Before heading out to cast your vote, check the weather and dress appropriately. If your polling station is in a highly populated area, you might have to stand in a queue for a while, so make sure you are comfortable. Take a camping chair if you have one, and some snacks.

Remember, campaigning for a particular political party at the polling station is prohibited by law, so make sure your clothing does not have any political party insignia or logos on it. Selfies while standing in line are allowed, but not inside the voting booth, so act wisely. Remember, your vote is your secret (if you want it to be).

Visit the IEC website for more information.


This article was paid for by the Independent Electoral Commission.