Voter stats called into question

FILE PICTURE: IEC machine which scans an ID cards at Bosmont Recreation Centre in Johannesburg, 9 November 2013 during voter registration. Picture: Nigel Sibanda

Voter registration may be lower than indicated by the statistics released by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) after the registration weekend this month.

The 80.5% of eligible voters registered publicised by the IEC is based on a voting age population (VAP) of 31.4 million referenced to Stats SA. However, this does not correspond to the 2013 mid-year estimates released by Stats SA putting the population above the age of 18 at 34.4 million.

Accounting for non-citizens, and the May election date, Stats SA statistician-general Pali Lehohla puts the VAP at 32.6 million and said that this is the VAP that should be used by the IEC.

The IEC maintains that “the VAP information provided by the Electoral Commission is based on Census 2011”.

Comparison of previous mid-year population estimates to census data shows these estimates are an indication of the yearly growth but are conservative as under-counting is inevitable.

The only other official record of the population is the National Population Register (NPR) maintained by the Department of Home Affairs (DHA).

The IEC has not checked their VAP against the number of people above 18 on the NPR and does not know if the VAP has been compared to the DHA’s record of those with ID books.

Home Affairs spokesperson Ronnie Mamoepa told The Citizen that there are 39 million people with ID books but this is “forever changing since more and more people apply for IDs”.

But “it is not possible, demographically, to have a population of 39 million people who are 15 years and above. It defies every demographic relationship… If it were then the population of South Africa should be more than 60 million,” said Lehohla.

The 2013 mid-year population estimate is 52.9 million.

Lehohla explains the high number of active ID books on the DHA’s record as a result of the methods of identification used during apartheid and the changes made subsequently to allow all people access to identification. During the 1990s there were seven different identity documents in use.

“By 1986 when the Green ID was available to all South Africans, homeland residents applied for it and also retained their homeland IDs and through this they could access services and pension payouts from both systems. By 1991 when a single population register was introduced a number of people had multiple IDs” said Lehohla.

The 1986 Act was amended in 1991, 1993 and 1995 until the Act and amendments were repealed by the Identification Act 68 of 1997. However, all identity documents issued under these acts are valid until the holder is issued with an identity card. The identity card referred to in the Act from 1997 is the smart ID for which the roll out was gazetted in July 2013. The replacement of identity documents with identity cards is expected to take six to seven years.

According to Lehohla, the presence of multiple identity documents is not solved by a person’s death, as only one ID is cancelled. The remaining documents will remain valid until the final stages of the smart ID roll out.

Lehohla’s explanation is backed up by the comparison of numbers from the NPR and the 2011 census. The number of people over the age of 44 (who would have been 16 in 1986) on the NPR is 2.3 million more than the census count. See graphic.

NPR vs Census

However, the 4.1 million difference between this and the VAP is unaccounted for without knowledge of how many of the 39 million ID books belong to those younger than 18. See graphic for estimate.

Population figures and VAP_web

The DHA has refused to clarify the age breakdown for active IDs.

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