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[LISTEN] A Dummies Guide to the Vote Count

Oct 27, 2021

Umm Muhammed Umar

On Monday, November 1 2021, South African voters will vote for whom they want, to represent them, until the next elections. ASRI’s Ebrahim Fakir discussed the voting process with Radio Islam, and how Ward and Proportional Representation councillor victories are determined and declared.

The number of ballot papers voters receive on Monday will be a combination of the choice of both parties, and individuals. In every metro municipality, cities like Johannesburg, Pretoria, Nelson Mandela Bay, eThekwini, Durban, and Cape Town, every citizen is to receive two ballot papers. In a normal urban municipality, voters are also to receive two ballot papers. However, in a district municipality, where two or more municipalities are grouped together, voters will receive three ballot papers. Nevertheless, most voters will receive two ballot papers only.

Fakir said that one ballot paper would be for electing the ward candidate (the person who would be representing your community and geographic area (ward or constituency). The ward is a geographic area determined by the Demarcation Board, together with the IEC, in particular voting districts. A ward has a series of candidates, who stand as individuals, in their own name, whether they are aligned to a political party, or are independent candidates.

Regarding the ward election, the system used is known as ‘first past the post’ – the candidate who wins the most votes is given a seat in a particular constituency. The second ballot, is the Proportional Representation (PR) ballot where one votes for a party. There are no individuals names, on this ballot, just the names of the parties. Fakir said, “As you vote in a national provincial election, you will choose a party of your choice; only one, because if you choose more than that, it will be regarded as a spoiled ballot.” He further added, “if you leave it blank it will be regarded as a spoiled ballot.”

Once the votes are cast, the IEC has a complicated formula for how the seats are distributed. All of the votes which have been cast are collated and counted together. All the spoiled ballot papers are left out of the count. For each ward, all of the ward ballots are counted, and the person in that ward who received the most votes will win the seat in that ward. Meanwhile, all of the votes, including the PR votes and the ward vote which were cast for individuals who stood aligned to a party, are put together. All of the votes which are won by individuals not aligned to a political party are given to those individuals. All of the ward votes which are cast for candidates aligned to a political party, together with the proportional representation ballots, are counted together to give the total number of votes which have been cast. That total is then divided by the number of seats available on the council of a particular municipality, plus one. Fakir explained that, thereafter, all of the wards which were won by a political party candidate are subtracted from the allocation of the PR seats to that party, and what remains is proportionately distributed.

If a person decides to vote for a ward councillor who’s responsive, even though he/she might not be from a party of one’s choice, a fraction of that vote will eventually count towards that party’s overall proportional representation tally. Fakir said, “And so you’ll be contributing a fraction of a vote to a party you might not necessarily like, but that’s a reasonable trade off, if you believe you are voting for a councillor, whether they are from your preferred first choice party or not.” He said, “At least on the PR ballot you can [still] choose the party of your choice.”

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