EXPLAINER | How to put your ‘X’ times 3 when you vote in 2024’s general elections

13 May 2024 - 09:28
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The voting process on May 29.
The voting process on May 29.
Image: Supplied

South Africa's seventh democratic elections will be held on May 29, as declared by President Cyril Ramaphosa, for voters to select the government of their choice for the next five years — and there is a significant change this time.

Voters will receive three ballot papers as a result of the Constitutional Court's ruling of 2021 mandating that parliament must devise a system to accommodate independent candidates.

While voters are not compelled to vote for the same party across all the ballot papers, the rule is “one ballot, one mark”.

Each of the three ballot papers must be marked once next to the party or independent for whom the voter is casting their vote. If there are multiple marks on the ballot paper it will be considered a spoilt ballot and will not count.

The Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa said members of the National Assembly and the nine provincial legislatures will still largely be elected on a party list, compensatory proportional representation system. Political parties will be represented in proportion to their electoral support, accommodating independent candidates.

It means the 400 seats in the National Assembly are split into two portions. One portion of 200 seats that designates each province as a region or constituency, with each province/region allocated a designated number of seats depending on its population size, and a further 200 compensatory seats reserved for political parties to contest.

Each region/province counts as a multi-member constituency. Independent candidates will contest the 200 regional seats alongside political parties, while the other 200 seats will be compensatory and reserved for political parties. This means that the total votes for a party in a region determine the number of seats they hold. An independent candidate can only occupy one seat, even if they contest in multiple regions. In each region political parties will appear on the ballot as a political party and submit a party list of contestants. Independent candidates will appear as independents on the same ballot paper for the region.

For provincial legislature seats, the province will remain a single-tier multimember constituency and the proportional system continues. Here political party candidates off party lists will compete on the same ballot as an independent candidate vying for a seat in a provincial legislature.

Ballot 1: National compensatory ballot

This is for the election of the compensatory 200 members of the National Assembly, which is only contested by political parties on a closed list basis. The ballot will be the same for the entire country. This ballot will have the names of the contesting political parties. In addition each party will have its name, face of party leader, abbreviation of the party, the party logo and the box required to make the mark.

Ballot 2: National regional ballot

This ballot is for regional elections of the 200 members of the National Assembly. This ballot will vary from region to region, depending on which parties and independent candidates contest the relevant regional election. The names of political parties and independent candidates that have met the requirements to contest each regional election will appear on the ballot. The seats are distributed among the regions based on the number of registered voters in the region. Each party will have its name, party leader, logo and abbreviation of party. For independent candidates, the ballot paper will have the name of the candidate, face of the candidate and the word “independent”.

Ballot 3: Provincial legislature ballot

A provincial ballot will be used to elect the members of the provincial legislature. It contains the names of the political parties and independent candidates.

Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) spokesperson Kate Bapela said measures have been implemented to make the voting process more accessible to all South Africans, regardless of physical abilities.

“The IEC officials will be on the ground to assist voters who require special assistance on voting day. Working with the South African National Council for the Blind, we have developed a voting aid, the universal ballot template (UBT), to assist people with disabilities and special needs to have an independent and secret vote during elections,” Bapela said.

She said the UBT can be used by blind and partially-sighted people, low-vision users, people with an unsteady hand, the elderly, people with low literacy and people with motor and nervous conditions which do not allow for a steady hand.

What to do on election day

  • Go to the voting station at which you are registered. Check your voter registration status to find out where you're registered. 
  • Show your ID card or green, bar-coded ID book or a temporary identification certificate to the voting officer.
  • The voting officer checks your name appears on the voters' roll. If you are not on the voters' roll but have proof you have registered (for example a registration sticker), the presiding officer must validate your proof of registration. If he/she is satisfied with the proof, you must complete a VEC4 form (national elections) or MEC7 form (municipal elections) and you will then be allowed to continue as an ordinary voter.
  • Once the voting officer is satisfied you have the correct ID, are a registered voter and have not already voted, your name is marked off the roll, your ID is stamped on the second page and your thumbnail is inked.
  • The voting officer stamps the back of the correct number of official ballot papers (one per election) and gives them to you.
  • Take your ballot paper/s to an empty ballot booth, mark the ballot paper, fold it so that your choice isn't visible and place the ballot paper in the ballot box.

Bapela said a spoilt ballot occurs when the voter's decision is not clear on the ballot, there is more than one mark on the ballot, the voter's choice is unclear, or the vote is cast for two parties.

Examples of rejected ballots.
Examples of rejected ballots.
Image: Supplied: IEC

How to properly make the mark

  • Make your mark in the box next to the party of your choice.
  • Be careful not to let your mark touch any of the walls of the box.
  • Make only one mark on the ballot paper: It is best to make a cross like this ✗. You can, however, also make a tick like this √

Are voters allowed to use any sign other than an X on their ballot?

Bapela said any mark is fine as long as it shows who you are voting for.

She said this helps the voting officials when they count the votes. 

“If you have made a mistake, tell the election official. He or she will cancel your ballot paper. You will be given a new one. Fold each ballot paper in half so nobody can see your marks.”


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