Election Report: 2011 Municipal Elections

As in the case of all elections, the Electoral Commission pulled out all the stops to make sure that the 2011 municipal elections would be conducted in such a way that all parties, candidates, observers and particularly the electorate would accept them as free and fair.

In the run-up to the elections, the Commission employed a large range of contract civic and voter education staff to conduct nonpartisan voter and balloting education among potential voters. Over 3500 contract staff were appointed to run mass-education campaigns.

When it came to the elections themselves, 200 000 election officials were employed across the country. These women and men worked for more than three days with dedication and efficiency and conducted the elections smoothly in 20 859 voting districts, each serviced by a voting station. This was a 10% increase on the number of voting stations in the last municipal elections in 2006 and a hefty 40% increase on the number in 2000. The increased number of voting districts translated into improved voter access to voting stations, which further translated into a reduction in queuing time on election day.

Of course, voting cannot take place without voting materials, and this meant that more than 70,5 million ballot papers, 259 200 ballot boxes, 131 400 voting compartments and 60 030 stationery packs – to take just four of the many items required – had to be prepared and transported to the remotest parts of the country. Security materials were handled separately from the mainstream of electoral material deliveries. These security materials included 157 000 security stamps (to mark ballot papers), 24 100 security tapes and 1,1 million security seals (to seal ballot boxes), 120 000 indelible ink pens (to mark voters’ fingers) and 88 000 tamper-proof bags (for overnight storage of security items). Distribution of these items was done in close collaboration with the security forces.

In 2011 a first for municipal elections was that ballot papers had security features similar to those used in national and provincial elections. All ballot papers were printed in colour with additional print features on the reverse, and the ballot paper design incorporated specific security features. A total of 4 555 ballot paper permutations was produced by nine printers spread across four provinces.
Another 2011 innovation was special voting in municipal elections – previously this had been offered only in provincial and national elections. The election timetable for these municipal elections set aside one day for special voting at voting stations and two days for homevisit special voting.

To add to the transparency and accuracy afforded by results slip scanning, the results system was audited and extensively tested. It was designed with automated quality checks to ensure correctness before it was publicly released. Results were audited by external independent auditors at the municipal electoral offices where the election results were recorded onto the municipal election results system.
Electoral legislation lays down that the Commission must declare the results of all elections within seven days. The Commission always aims to go the extra mile and declare the results within three days. In 2011, 24 hours after voting stations had closed on election day, 92% of the results slips had been captured, audited and scanned. The final results, collated from a total of 58 152 results slips, were available within 56 hours of the elections.

The certified voters’ roll for these elections contained 23 655 046 names. This was in contrast to 21 054 957 for the 2006 and 18 476 516 for the 2000 municipal elections – a 28% increase over eleven years. For 2011 we set ourselves a voter turnout target of 40% – but voters turned out in their unanticipated millions, giving a turnout figure nearly 20% higher.
Municipal elections present challenges not encountered in other elections. South Africa’s National Assembly and provincial legislatures are elected by proportional representation. Our mixed system for municipal elections – whereby ward councillors are elected in a “first-past-thepost” system while the remaining councillors are elected by proportional representation – is more complicated than straight proportional representation, and a single vote for a ward candidate may make the difference between winning and losing. The 2011 municipal elections were contested by 121 parties and 53 757 candidates. It says much for our emergent democracy that the 2011 municipal elections and their results were accepted by all comers as free, fair and accurate.

Mosotho Moepya
Chief Electoral Officer