Newbie’s guide to the elections

Municipal elections are set for Wednesday August 3, and according to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), there are almost 700 000 registered voters who will be voting for the first time.

What are Municipal Elections?

Municipal elections are for local government and take place every five years. They are to elect councillors for metropolitan councils in big cities such as Johannesburg and Cape Town; local councils for towns such as Potchefstroom and Standerton and their surrounding rural areas; and district councils which coordinate a number of local municipalities in a region. These councils are responsible providing services such as water, electricity, and waste removal.

Why is it important to vote in the municipal elections?

It is the responsibility of citizens to vote for councils that they think will provide satisfactory services and access to resources in their area.
What electoral system is used in South Africa?
There are three main types of electoral systems in the world. The first is the Proportional Representation (PR) council where you vote for a party and the party gets seats according to the percentage of votes it receives. The different parties then decide which candidates will fill those seats.
The second is the Constituency based system where voters vote an individual to represent an area and the person who gets most votes is elected.
The third system, which South Africa uses, is the mixed system which uses a combination of the PR and constituency system.

How many ballot papers will I get?

The number and type of votes you have depends on where you live.
Voters who are registered in metropolitan areas will receive two ballot papers. The first one is for a party. The second is for a ward councillor who may be an independent, or be from a party.
For local councils voters receive three ballot papers: one for the party, another for a ward councillor and the last for a party for the district council.

Your rights as a voter:

You have the right to free and fair elections by being fully informed and deciding for yourself who to vote for.
As a democratic citizen you have the right to vote, no one should stop you from voting. However, you also have the right not to vote.
You have the right to choose which party or candidate you would like to vote for and no-one is allowed to try to bribe or threaten you to vote for a particular party.
You have the right to a secret vote where your vote is anonymous and where no one is allowed to watch you make your vote.
You have the right to get help to vote if you are blind, disabled or elderly by asking a family member, friend or election official for help.
You have the right to vote in a safe environment and the right to make a complaint to the Presiding Officer if you are unhappy about harassment or intimidation within the voting station.

Related articles:

“Importance” in the youth vote, Wits Vuvuzela, April 2016

Will the youth affect local elections, Wits Vuvuzela,  March 2016