Democracy is the cornerstone of every republic. And with democracy comes the civil responsibility and privilege to vote. Voting is what empowers the people to democratically choose whom they want to govern them. This ranges from political parties to local candidates and even coalition governments.
When citizens have not voted or have voted for the wrong political party it seems rather redundant and hypocritical for such citizens then to go on the protest, disturbing peace, burning tyres and raising concerns that should have come to mind when they ‘made their cross.’ To want to take public action, and even resort to violence is rather belated at its best. In a democracy, a government is chosen by voting in an election: a way for an electorate to elect, that is to choose, among several candidates for rule. In a representative democracy voting is the method by which the electorate appoints its representatives in its government. In a direct democracy, voting is the method by which the electorate directly make decisions, turn bills into laws, etc.
A vote is a formal expression of an individual’s choice in voting, for or against some motion (for example, a proposed resolution), for or against some ballot question, for a certain candidate, a selection of candidates, or a political party. A secret ballot has come to be the practice to prevent voters from being intimidated and to protect their political privacy. Each of us has a responsibility to ourselves to vote and to choose the most suitable candidate or political party, both on national and local level in order to play our vital role in our democracy and to protect the our own interests, individually and collectively. It is important for the public to register as a voter in order to be enabled to legally vote. The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) is the body responsible for managing the registration of voters and making sure that elections are free and fair. The first step is to register. Then to ensure that you have the address for the correct voting station for the voting district in which you are registered. Most voting stations are located in community buildings like local schools, churches or community centres. Where buildings are not available, voting stations are set up in tents in parks or other open land. In some sparsely-populated rural areas we use specially adapted vehicles as mobile voting stations. Every voting station has large clear signs outside marking it as a voting station. At the entrance of the voting station is an election official who serves as a door controller. He or she will check that you have a valid identification document (green barcoded ID book, smart-card ID or temporary ID certificate), will scan this document, and present you with a slip that confirms that you are a registered voter.
The door controller will also tell you when it is your turn to enter the station and will advise where to go once inside the voting station. Once inside the voting station you will proceed to the voters’ roll table where election officials will take your ID document and check for your name and identity number on the segment of the national common voters’ roll for that voting district. Your name will then be crossed off – this is a manual mechanism for ensuring that voters only vote once. An election official will then ink your left thumb nail. This is a special ink that will not wash off your nail for several days. This ink mark will show everyone that you have participated in the election.An election official will then hand you your ballot papers – which they will tear off a pad. Each ballot paper has a unique number and you must make sure that there is a stamp at the back of your ballot papers to verify that they were issued to you on that Election Day. For national and provincial elections voters generally receive two ballot papers (one for the national and one for the provincial election), whereas for municipal elections voters in metros and local councils receive two ballot papers (one for a ward councillor and one for a political party as part of the PR section of the election. Voters in areas which form part of a district council receive a third ballot paper for the district council election. Your green ID book, if that was your identification document, will then be stamped by an election official to show that you participated in the election.
You will then be directed to an empty voting booth. Here you will place your X in the box next to the political party and/or candidate of your choice. To avoid a spoilt ballot, ensure that you make only one mark on each ballot paper and that your mark is clear. If you make a mistake call an election official and they will provide you with a new ballot paper. When you are finished, fold your ballot papers in half and leave the voting booth. Just a reminder – you are not allowed to photograph your marked ballot paper. An election official stationed at the ballot box will check that there is a stamp at the back of each of your ballots. Having made your mark, drop your completed ballot paper through the slot in the top of the ballot box. After casting your vote, you will then be directed to the exit. Remember that political party representatives and independent observers (both national and international) are present throughout the voting and counting process to observe the process and to ensure it is free and fair. The local Madibeng IEC voting office can be found at the Traffic Department Office building, 53 van Velden Street, Brits. They can also be contacted on 012 252 1569.