Election Report: 2004 National and Provincial Elections
The year 2004 signalled a very important era in the history of our country. Not only was it the tenth anniversary of the democratic dispensation, but the year in which the third general elections were also held. The Electoral Commission of South Africa (Electoral Commission), as the institution charged with the responsibility of managing and administering elections in this country, adopted all the necessary steps to ensure that these elections indeed became free and fair.
Lessons that were learnt from the previous elections were put to good use in preparing for the 2004 Elections. One of the most important lessons from the previous elections was the aim to reduce long queues at voting stations as well as to reduce the distances that people had to travel in order to cast their votes. To that extent, we increased the number of voting stations from 15 000 in 2000 to 16 966 in the 2004 Elections. This represented an increase of 13%. On Election Day we realised, however, that irrespective of the increase in the number of voting stations we still had long queues, especially in the Townships. We have taken cognisance of this shortcoming and have already factored it into the preparations for the 2005/6 Municipal Elections.
The two registration weekends that were held prior to the elections helped to increase the number of registered voters from 18 172 751 in 1999 to 20 674 926 for the 2004 Elections which represented an increase of some 2,5 million registered voters. This increase was also assisted by the targeted registration process that was undertaken whereby people who were eligible voters were registered from door to door in those areas that were affected by the re-delimitation of voting districts.
A further breakdown of the registration figure shows that 7.3 million of registered voters were rural while 13.3 million were urban. In all age categories, women outnumbered men in the registration figures where they comprised 11.3 million while men made 9.3 million of the total. What has also been of major significance with regard to these elections is the substantial increase of youth participation in the electoral process.
The registration figures also reveal that 9.2 million of registered voters, representing an overwhelming 44.47% of all registered voters, were the youth (18 – 35 years). This significant number of registered young electorate gives us a reason to believe that ours is not a crisis of the youth being lost as a generation, as others have said before. To the contrary, this is an indication of the growing support and appreciation by South Africans of all ages of the value of the vote as a means of participation in the governance process of their country. People want to participate in the nurturing of their democracy and they see elections as one of the most important ways of achieving this.
We made extensive use of technology to greatly enhance our ability to communicate with the electorate. For instance, the Short Messaging Service (SMS) and wireless application protocol (WAP) were used. These allowed voters to verify their voter status, where they were registered to vote and afforded them access to the results as soon as they became available. Furthermore, our public website was updated to provide information to registered voters on request and we had established a call centre which had an automated, computerised voice response system.
In order for us to provide all eligible voters with the opportunity to cast their vote efficiently and without delay, we employed approximately 220 000 voting officers at all voting stations. The effort that we put into civic and voter education ensured a voter turnout of 77% with 1.58% spoilt ballots.
To ensure the integrity of the 2004 Elections, the election results were verified by independent auditors who were deployed at all offices of the Municipal Electoral Officers where the capturing of results into the system took place. The effective and efficient use of all resources, i.e. human capital and technology, provided the correct mix in ensuring that the results were announced within three days of the date of the election.
We cannot underestimate the positive role played by political parties during the elections. It is as a result of the good relationship between the Electoral Commission and political parties that the elections went well and all problems that arose were effectively addressed.
While we recognise, as did the local and international observers, that the 2004 Elections went extremely well, we are aware of certain aspects that need improvement. To that extent, in our preparations for the 2005/2006 Local Government Elections we are paying special attention to the areas that can be improved.
Advocate Pansy Tlakula
Chief Electoral Officer