IEC removes election official after party agent caught on video counting special votes
The Electoral Commission (IEC) has removed the deputy presiding officer from a voting station in Benoni, east of Johannesburg, after a video showing a party agent helping with the transfer of special votes went viral.
"The video, which went viral on Monday, showed a party agent helping to transfer special votes in their double envelopes from a ballot bag used during home visits to a ballot box in the voting station," the IEC said in a statement.
The electoral body explained that the transfer of the special votes from bags to ballot boxes was normal procedure, and that ballot bags were used to collect special votes during home visits. This was because ballot boxes were impractical for home visits.
"After the home visits, the special votes collected are then transferred to a ballot box for secure storage and to empty the ballot bag for use on the second day of special voting [on Tuesday].
"However, the handling of any electoral material by any party agent is strictly prohibited. They are allowed only to observe operations and raise objections. The deputy presiding officer who was overseeing the process has therefore been removed," the IEC said.
According to the IEC, all special votes are first placed in an unmarked envelope. This is then inserted into a second envelope which is marked with the voting station and voter’s particulars for verification. The envelope is then placed in the ballot box or bag.
"Before special votes are included in the count they are subjected to a thorough verification against lists of authorised special voters. This is witnessed by party agents and observers. Only when the special vote is confirmed against the authorised list is the outer envelope removed and the inner envelope is added to normal ballots for counting. This protects the secrecy of the vote."
The IEC said it was also investigating reports of instances of the double envelope system not being used in some special voting on Monday as well as some ballot papers which might not have been stamped at the back.
"The stamping of ballot papers immediately prior to them being issued to voters is an important security measure. Depending on the outcome of the investigation the commission will make a decision on whether these votes are included in the count or not.
"The commission appreciates the vigilance of party agents and voters in monitoring the election process and in bringing to its attention potential problems. This should be done firstly at the voting station through the presiding officer and, if not resolved then it should be raised through the existing channels including the party liaison structures. Providing as much detail of any incident – including where and when it occurred – would significantly speed up the investigation process."
Special voting continued on Tuesday.