The Electoral Commission of SA has removed a deputy Presiding Officer who allowed a party agent to assist in transferring special votes from a voting station in Ekurhuleni.
The incident happened in Benoni on Monday and in a video circulating online, a man wearing a blue shirt is seen holding a ballot box while the deputy presiding officer moves special votes in their double envelopes from a ballot bag used during home visits to a ballot box in the voting station.
The IEC in a statement confirmed it had removed the officer following an investigation into the video.
The commission also explained that: “The transfer of the special votes from bags to ballot boxes is normal procedure. Ballot bags are used to collect special votes during home visits as ballot boxes are impractical for home visits. At the end of the day of home visits, the special votes collected are then transferred to a ballot box for secure storage and to empty the ballot bag for use on the second day of special voting.
“However, the handling of any electoral material by any party agent is strictly prohibited. They are only allowed to observe operations and raise objections. The deputy Presiding Officer who was overseeing the process has therefore been removed.”
The IEC added that despite this breach, it is confident “the integrity was not undermined as special votes have a very strict verification process prior to the counting of ballots through the double envelope system”.
The commission also confirmed it was investigating reports of instances where the double envelope system was not used in some special voting that took place on Monday as well as claims that some ballot papers were not been stamped at the back.
Special votes are first placed in an unmarked envelope which is then inserted into a second envelope which is marked with the voting station and voter’s particulars for verification. The envelope is then placed in the ballot box or bag in the case of home visits.
“The stamping of ballot papers immediately prior to them being issued to voters is an important security measure.
“Depending on the outcome of the investigation, the commission will make a decision on whether these votes are included in the count or not.
The IEC said it appreciated the vigilance of party agents and voters in monitoring the election process and in bringing to its attention potential problems.
“This should be done firstly at the voting station through the Presiding Officer and, if not resolved then it should be raised through the existing channels including the party liaison structures.
Special voting through home visits and voting station visits continues on Tuesday while the general elections take place on May 8, 2019.