Voter registration fails to draw youth

People queue to vote during the general elections in 2009.

NELSPRUIT – The province’s potential voters did not turn out in large numbers this past weekend.

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) held its first voter-registration weekend on Saturday and Sunday for next year’s provincial and national elections. According to Mr Sibusiso Nkosi from the IEC in Mpumalanga, the statistics revealed that 77 268 new voters registered for the first time in the province.

One of them was Mr Sambulo Mthembu (29), who was not sure who he was going to vote for. “I must choose the right party. I am looking for a better life.”

The new registrations bring the grand total of registered voters in the province to 1,7 million, which is about 73,2 per cent of all eligible voters estimated to live here. The percentage is the second lowest in the country, with only Gauteng at 72,1 per cent, having a smaller percentage of eligible voters registered.

Ms Chené McCullagh (26) said she did not register because she doesn’t vote. “I didn’t register and am not planning to. I don’t believe in voting.” This sentiment was echoed by Mr Mduduzi Thwala (30). “I have never voted and I don’t plan to,” he said.

The province also saw 83 702 people re-register from other voting districts. Ms Charlotte Maluleka (23) was not one of them as she had previously registered to vote in Pretoria. Yet, next year will be her first time voting and she said she planned to do it.

Nationwide, slightly fewer than a million new names were added to the roll. The total percentage of registered voters now stands at 76,7 per cent, according to the IEC.

Nkosi added that the province as a whole experienced very few disruptions and no incidents were recorded in the Lowveld area. “We experienced a delay in the opening of some of our voting stations at 08:00, but nothing major. We can safely say that all our stations were open and there were no major hiccups.”

One obstacle was that many people said they hadn’t realised they had to register on the weekend. Mr Andrew Jones (28) said he thought registration was open but not limited to the past weekend. “I probably will register if there is another opportunity,” he said.

Ms Sonja Joubert (25) also said she didn’t know about it, explaining that she never watches television or listens to the radio. Joubert, who was eligible to vote in the previous general elections in 2009, said she has never registered. “Usually I am too late. I plan to register next time, because my sister always says that if you don’t vote, you can’t complain.”

Read more about people’s views on voting here.

Mireille de Villiers

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