This Election Day South Africans will vote, for the fourth time, to have their say in how their country should be run. Here’s a quick guide to making that vote count.

Voting is the cornerstone of a functioning democracy, and on 7 May, Election Day, South Africans will go to the polls to choose their government for the next five years.

According to law, elections for a new parliament and provincial governments have to be held within 90 days of the five-year term of the current parliament ending; in this case on 22 April 2014. This is a fundamental part of democracy; that governments that do not meet the people’s needs cannot hold power forever, and that citizens have a say in who governs their country. It is the right of every citizen to choose their government.

On Election Day, voting will take place from 7am to 9pm. If you are still in the queue to vote at 9pm you must be allowed to vote before the voting station closes. You can vote for any party– the party you supported in earlier elections, a different party, or a new party. Your vote is secret and no one can tell you who to vote for. Here’s more on your rights as a voter, and how to vote.

What are my rights as a voter?
You have 10 rights as a voter:

  • The right to free and fair elections
  • The right to vote
  • The right to not vote
  • The right to spoil your vote
  • The right to vote once in each election
  • The right to your own free choice
  • The right to a secret vote
  • The right to get help to vote
  • The right to vote safely
  • The right to make a complaint

Where can I vote?
You should always vote at the voting station where you’re registered, but it is possible to vote elsewhere in a national election.

Q: Can I vote at my nearest voting station?
A: National and Provincial Elections

You must vote at the voting station where you’re registered to vote. However, if you’re outside of your voting district on Election Day you may vote at another voting station in South Africa. If you’re outside the province where you registered, you’ll only be able to vote in the national election and not the provincial election, and you’ll be asked to complete a VEC 4 form at the voting station.

Municipal Elections and By-elections
You must vote at the voting station at which you’re registered.

You must be a registered voter in South Africa in order to vote. To confirm that your name is on the voters’ roll and to find out which voting station you’re registered at, please check your voter registration status online or SMS your ID number to 32810. To locate your voting station on a map, please see our online voting station finder.

Q: Can I vote online or by post?
A: No, you must vote in person at your voting station.

Q: How do I know if my voting station has changed?
A: Check your voter registration status online before each election to confirm that your voting station hasn’t changed.

Q: I registered at a temporary registration station. Where do I vote now?
A: Voting stations may change from time to time, depending on availability of each voting venue. To find out where your voting station is, please check your voter registration status online. You can then use our online voting station finder to find a map to your voting station.

Q: How do I vote?
You have to mark the ballot paper to show the party you want to vote for. You can do this by marking a cross in the box next to the name of the party you support, or in another way that clearly indicates the party you are choosing.

Q: What are the steps in the voting process?

  • You show your ID document.
  • The voting officer checks and scans the barcode in your ID document.
  • The voting officer checks to see if your name is on the section of the voters’ roll for your voting district.
  • Your hands are checked to see if they have been marked with indelible ink – to make sure you haven’t voted already.
  • Your name is crossed off the section of the voters’ roll for your voting district.
  • Your left thumb will be marked with indelible ink to make sure that you do not vote again in the 2014 elections.
  • An official stamp is put on the back of your ballot papers.
  • You have one ballot paper for the national elections and one ballot paper for the provincial elections.
  • You go into the voting booth and make a cross for one party on each of the ballot papers. If you are not sure how to vote, you can ask for help from a voting officer.
  • You fold the ballot papers and put the national one into the national ballot box and the provincial one into the provincial ballot box. A voting officer will check to see that the ballot papers have the official stamps on the back before they are put into the boxes.

In the 2014 elections, the full voters’ roll will also be available in electronic format on the barcode scanner devices at each voting station should disputes arise around the right of anyone to vote in that voting district, and to find voters’ correct voting stations.

Source: Media Guide: National and Provincial Elections 2014