Were the 'indelible' ink pens used on voters faulty? IEC won't say, yet

16 May 2019 - 11:43 By Iavan Pijoos
Parties have raised concerns about the ink used to mark voters' thumbs.
Parties have raised concerns about the ink used to mark voters' thumbs.
Image: @MichAtagana via Twitter

Preliminary tests have been done on a batch of markers used to ink voters' thumbs on election day on May 8, the IEC said on Thursday.

This after claims that their "indelible" ink could easily be washed off.

IEC deputy chief executive Masego Shiburi said they were yet to make a final determination on whether the pens were faulty, but suggested that the effectiveness of the pens may have been counteracted by "agents" applied to the hands of voters.

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There were numerous reports by voters who claimed, and demonstrated how, the ink used on their thumbs could be washed off. This could have made it easier for a person who had already voted to cast a second vote at another station.

The ink was one of the security measures used on voting day by the IEC.

"The active component [making it hard to remove] in the indelible ink is silver nitrate. We have increased the percentage from 15% to 20% and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research [CSIR] has confirmed that from the samples that they tested, the silver nitrate is in the region of 20% for all the pens that they have tested," said Shiburi.

This appeared to indicate that the concentration was sufficient to leave an indelible mark.

"Where there was fault is an indication that people applied agents that counteracted the effectiveness of that pen," said Shiburi.

Shiburi, who declined to be drawn further on the preliminary test results, said the IEC hoped to provide an update by Monday, once it had received a comprehensive report on the tests.

"For example, if a person applied Vaseline, the ink would not bond as effectively as it does on a dry finger," he explained.

More than 20 people were arrested for alleged voter fraud after the election.

Chief electoral officer Sy Mamabolo said the commission and political parties would have to reconsider how the commission applied the section 24(a) voting procedure because it undermined the ability for planning.