Today is voting day in South Africa. We have the opportunity to vote in the 2011 Municipal Elections. Now I hadn’t previously given it much thought. These are only the second elections I’m voting in, the first being the national elections back in 2009. That was easy. 2 votes. One for National Assembly representation, and one for Provincial. But I recently realised that it wouldn’t be as straightforward as that for the Municipal Elections.
After chatting with quite a few people in the area, it’s clear that I was not alone in this state. Everyone knew to an extent who they wanted to vote for, and just assumed they’d go and make their mark, but no one understood that there would be different ballots with different implications. Digging through the IEC’s website, I found this page on voter education, which has some nice pamphlets, which does to an extent explain what’s going on. But again it doesn’t explain the nitty gritty, or how exactly representatives are chosen.
There are 2 scenarios. You either live in a metropolitan area (such as Cape Town Unicity) or you live in a district (such as me in Stellenbosch, other towns in the area would be included in this district). For Metropolitan areas, you get two votes. One for your ward representative, and one for the party you want to run the city, ie be the mayor. For towns in districts, there are 3 votes. One for your ward representative. One for the party to be mayor, and one for the party you want to lead the District.
This is all good and well. The person with the most votes in your ward will get a seat on the local council. Stellenbosch has 37 seats in total, 19 of which are allocated as a result of ward votes. The other 18 are then assigned on a basis of Proportional Representation. But here where things get slightly confusing. There are two possible situations. Either they look at the percentage of votes a party got in the mayoral vote, and assign seats based on that. With 18 seats, it means each party would get a representative for every 5% of the votes they got here. The alternative, and how it looks, is that they include the already occupied seats in the calculation. Meaning that 2.7% of votes would result in a seat. For example, in the 2006 elections, the UDM only received 1.9% of votes. so under the first situation, they wouldn’t really stand a chance of getting one of the 5% seats. Yet they have held a seat the last 5 years.
And this is where the issue comes in. There is so much happening on the IEC’s website at the moment, it’s very difficult to find the information you’re looking for. I’m not even sure if the information I’m looking for is available on their website.
Now for most people this is probably not an issue. They have a party they support, and they are going to vote for them on all their ballots, however lots of community’s have local parties standing for wards. And it makes it tricky when voting mayorally. In Stellenbosch we have the new Studente Stem Party. They are standing for 2 of the wards in Stellenbosch, and then are also standing for the mayoral position. My voting station is located outside of their wards, but I may want to support them with the mayoral vote, but it’s difficult not knowing how exactly the system works.
In any case, I intend to ask some people around the voting station tomorrow and find out how clued up the people there are. Ought to be interesting.
Enjoy your public holiday!
Edit: Another thought. The Student Party don’t stand a chance of winning the mayoral vote, so do I give my vote to them in any case to get another representative on the council, or do I rather give my vote to a party that my vote may have an impact on, thus ensuring my chosen party is the one leading the town?