Electoral Laws Amendment Bill removes oversight over voter registration fraud
19 March 2021
The DA will not allow free and fair elections to be compromised and is considering further action after the ANC passed the Electoral Laws Amendment Bill.
The bill effectively makes it impractical to track the practice of bussing in of voters, and other forms of voter registration fraud, through redacting ID numbers on the voters’ roll.
In a 2016 briefing to Parliament, the IEC specifically raised vigilance on the registration of voters ahead of close elections as a major challenge.
And indeed close elections are expected in the coming elections with 1,4 million voters turning away from the ruling party in 2019 and the ANC losing a further 8% of their vote in the last by-elections - 10 times more than any other party.
A case in point is registration fraud at a ward in Johannesburg that was uncovered by the DA in the last local government elections, where we were able to use the ID numbers to trace where the newly registered voters had come from by comparing to previous voters’ rolls. It was found to be a group from another settlement which had all registered in the ward and the registrations were overturned by the IEC. Without ID numbers on the voters’ roll this would not have been possible. This is just one example.
Section 32(1) of the Constitution provides that everyone has the right of access to records held by the state that is required for the protection of any rights. Section 1(1)(d) further entrenches "regular free and fair" elections as one of the foundational rights of our democracy.
The court judgment that led to the Political Party Funding Act held that the right to vote and the right to access information are interconnected. The court further held that Parliament will need to come up with a mechanism that allows disclosure but this mechanism doesn’t need to be complete and automatic.
Despite the guidance of the court and warnings that the legislation in its final form would lead to donors holding back for fear of victimisation in the award of government work the ANC decided that it is fine to share the personal details of donors to the general public for the “purposes of democracy”. The ANC is generally unaffected by this law. As we have seen at the Zondo Commission they don’t rely on donations but on state resources.
The DA agrees that the full voters roll shouldn’t be available to anyone for any purpose, and as the voters roll does not contain contact numbers it is not a canvassing database.
The Protection of Personal Information (POPI) Act comes into force on 1 July 2021 and political parties have the same duty as any other person or institution in terms of the Act to deal with the personal information of voters in a manner consistent with the Act.
This Act states that the constitutional values of democracy and openness requires the removal of unnecessary impediments to the free flow of personal information. It further states that the right to privacy is subject to justifiable limitations aimed at protecting other rights and important interests.
Not a single cogent argument was put forward by the ANC on how voters roll information provided to organisations overseeing elections, that would not be shared with the public, is such a threat to privacy that protection of democracy must be sacrificed.
This bill does not balance the right to privacy with the right to free and fair elections and in fact, subverts the foundational right to free and fair elections and does not pass constitutional muster.
Today the ANC chose to go against the courts, go against the constitution and go against the very protection of personal information act they claim to be protecting.
In the same week that the ANC railroaded this legislation through Parliament, China was making some Electoral laws amendments of its own where only “Patriots” can now be elected to the Hong Kong legislature. “Patriots” is Chinese for “Cadres”.
It is impossible to believe that such legislation can be passed but do not think that this cannot happen in South Africa. It happens one step at a time.
The DA will demand adequate oversight over electoral fraud and will continue to fight for free and fair elections.
Statement issued by Adrian Roos MP, DA Shadow Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, 19 March 2021