Digital polling in SA may be considered – IEC

Sealed IEC ballot boxes at a voting tent in Brackenfell, Western Cape, 8 May 2019. Picture: Henk Kruger / African News Agency (ANA)

Sealed IEC ballot boxes at a voting tent in Brackenfell, Western Cape, 8 May 2019. Picture: Henk Kruger / African News Agency (ANA)

But Institute for Security Studies researcher Jackie Cilliers said South Africa was not yet ready to adopt the electronic polling system.

Calls for a digital polling system after claims of double and triple voting came to light during last week’s elections may be slightly premature, since connectivity issues in large parts of South Africa would likely throw a spanner in the works of such a system.

Deputy national police commissioner Fannie Masemola said on Friday that 22 people had been arrested for attempting to vote more than once, 17 of them at a KwaZulu-Natal polling station.

Although Masemola assured the public that none of those arrested had succeeded in voting twice and that they were all arrested for attempting to commit the crime, calls were made for the introduction of digital polling.

The Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) also backed up the SA Police Service by stating there was no evidence to back up the double-voting claims.

When asked if the IEC would consider going electronic in the next election, in five years’ time, IEC commissioner Janet Love said the current system was no different to the system they had used in the past and although it was a manual system, it was always captured electronically for reviewing and updating purposes.

However, Love said after Wednesday’s elections the IEC was going to consider a number of things and digital polling could be one of them.

She reminded SA that “part of the reflection will involve people in legislature.

“We don’t make the laws, we apply the laws in the most effective and best way that we can”.

An expert has said if there was connectivity in every corner of South Africa, there would be very little hurdles left to deal with going electronic.

Cyber security expert Dustin van der Haar said digital polling systems have been adopted in other countries and while countries like India and Brazil viewed it as a success, it did not work in several others.

“Some would argue that we’re an emerging country just like Brazil and India, however, more research needs to be done around it before we adopt the system,” he said.

“My concern from an access point of view is the digital divide [in South Africa]. If we can ensure that everyone, even those in poor areas, has the hardware to vote, there are not much hurdles to deal with if the country decides to go electronic.”

On the other hand, Institute for Security Studies researcher Jackie Cilliers said South Africa was not yet ready to adopt the electronic polling system and that all the efforts and costs that would go into it would not be worth it.

“The elections were free and fair and the minor issues around the elections are just that, minor,” he said.

“It has worked internationally but South African has a very controlled system at the moment. Electronics will not be able to be as apparent or visible as the manual system, where there are observers at every level.”

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