28 May 2010

Ward and Voting District demarcation

ANC Today, 28 May 2010

Ward and Voting District demarcation

Why are we getting new wards and changing some of the existing wards?

The Municipal Structures Act says that wards must have more or less the same number of voters. No more than 10% deviation from the average is allowed. New wards are added before every local election and the boundaries of existing wards often change.

The Municipal Demarcations Board (MDB) is in charge of determining the boundaries of municipalities, and of wards within municipalities. The number of councillors in each municipality is determined by the number of voters and the Member of the Executive Council (MEC) for Local Government applies the legal formula and publishes the number of councillors in the Government Gazette. Half the councillors have to come from wards (and the other half from the Proportional Representation list). If there has been a significant increase in the number of voters in a municipality, more wards will be added.

What is the process?

It is not a simple process to add more wards, because of the requirement that wards must have more or less the same number of voters. As new wards are created the boundaries of existing wards also sometimes have to change to ensure that all wards have similar numbers of voters.

The MDB proposes changes to municipalities and publishes them for comment. This process usually starts about two years before an election. If there are no objections, local council stakeholder meetings sign off on the changes and they are implemented. If there are objections from any party, or a dispute about where boundaries should be, the MDB visits the affected area and holds a meeting with all parties to the dispute. They attempt to get agreement and sign-off on new boundaries from all the parties involved. If that fails, the MDB can make the decision.

A Schedule 1 notice is then published about the new boundaries and a two-week formal objection period is allowed before the boundaries are finalised.

Where is the process now?

By the end of May all stakeholder meetings should be completed.

64% of notices have already been published and the rest should be published in June.

The MDB will convene Ward Delimitation Committees in June and July 2010 to decide on the merit of objections received after which it will finalise the wards for the 2011.

As the ANC we should avoid unnecessary delays to the finalisation of wards. Objections should only be made in very serious cases. The timeframes are very tight and any further delays will compromise the opportunities for voter registration.

The MDB has to provide to the IEC the final set of wards on 1 Sept 2010.

What does the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) do?

The IEC then matches the ward boundaries to Voting District boundaries. Most of the 19 000 VDs will remain intact, but a few thousand will change because they are cut in two by new ward boundaries. A number of new VDs are also created in new urban settlements or in rural areas where previous boundaries were impractical.

The IEC proposes new VD boundaries to local Party Liaison Committees who have to sign off on the maps before they can be finalised. Voter registration or re-registration of voters whose VD changed, can only start once maps are printed.

The IEC will then conduct targeted registration in changed VDs, upload the data and update the voters roll.

Two public voter registration weekends are usually held. After the first one the roll is again updated and the new version is open for checking at the second weekend. The voters roll closes as soon as elections are proclaimed - usually about 2-3 months before the election.