Although Bloemfontein residents voted enthusiastically yesterday in spite of the rain, the Free State had a lukewarm start to national elections.
By the time Bloemfontein Courant went to press yesterday, only 77 000 voters had cast their ballots in the Free State after about 1.4 million people were registered for the general elections.
Bloemfontein Courant was at the Results Operation Centre in Hamilton on Election Day when IEC Communications Officer, Mmathabo Rasengane, expressed that voter turnout in the province was expected to be low this time around. “The rain is affecting the voter turnout negatively because usually by around 10:00 we would have had a lot of people, but today we only had 77 000 people who had cast their ballots across the province,” said Rasengane.
“It is worrisome because it is still raining and cold. Personally I’m worried that we will not reach one million voters,” she said. However, Rasengane explained that although most voters would normally have visited stations by 12:00, a good number usually make their way in the evening at around 17:00.
The Electoral Commission of South Africa had tackled a few challenges while residents cast their ballots throughout Mangaung on 8 May 2019. When Bloemfontein Courant was at the IEC Results Operation Centre in Hamilton, various parties voiced complaints over insufficient ballot papers at stations, easily removable marks on thumbs and power cuts in a few areas, among others.
According to Rasengane ballot papers might have run out but extra supplies were available. “We always have buffer stock but we do not keep that at each station for control purposes. The area manager is alerted when buffer is needed and supplies it accordingly,” said Rasengane. On the challenge of power cuts in Bloemside and Glass Palace Rasengane mentioned that the issue had been taken up with Centlec.
A few political parties mentioned that markers used to mark the thumbs of voters during the voting process could be easily removed. According to Rasengane, IEC staff were asked to improve the way they were marking as this could affect how long the marks would last on thumbs. “The person making the mark must press hard so the mark does not wash away easily. The IEC CEO conveyed this to us to tell staff,” said Rasengane.
A few residents in Heidedal were confused when they saw that Gayton McKenzie’s image was not included along with his party, the Patriotic Alliance, on the ballot paper today. According to Rasengane this was simply because ballots feature the image of party presidential candidates. “Both the national and provincial ballot papers have the same party candidate,” she expressed. Bloemfontein native, McKenzie, was a premier candidate for the Heidedal-based party. – Nomaqhawe Mtebele