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Option of electronic voting in South Africa being “investigated”

The Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) has been asked by Parliament to respond to a number of public comments made on the Electoral Laws Amendment Bill. Some of the questions submitted pertain to the topic of electronic voting being introduced to South Africa.

The Bill mentions that the IEC is “investigating” the possibility of electronic voting, but some of the submissions question how much of a cost this will incur.

Some of the specific concerns raised include the following:

– Electronic voting machines require such ‘large initial investments in hardware and proprietary software’ that the only way to help spread their costs is to give them ‘a lifetime of 20 to 30 years’. However, ‘it is almost impossible to prepare decades in advance for potential vulnerabilities, which multiply as technology advances’.

– There is public concern that a change to the prescribed voting method may encourage electoral fraud.

– How electronic voting will be carried has also been brought into question, and some of the options being explored include the possibility of using a mobile phone number that is registered to a person on the voters’ roll and is also RICA’d.

In July, the IEC announced that it is considering the option of electronic voting to make the election process one that is more seamless than the current ballot system. It added that e-voting would be trialled, but there is not yet word on when the trial will take place.

“In order to increase efficiencies in the electoral process and to ameliorate intractable challenges especially in the counting and capturing of results, the commission has proposed an e-voting pilot project,” Chief electoral officer Sy Mamabolo said to BusinessTech at the time. “The foremost consideration in the use of technology is to drive down the costs of elections and increase operational efficiencies.”

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