This is an outrage. The journalist – Etienne Mare – was only doing his duty.
UPDATE – Local journalist Ettienne Mare from Suburb News made a brief appearance in the Barberton Magistrate Court today. He was charged with contravening the electoral act after exposing to the public how easy it was to vote twice during the elections. He was released on R1000 bail. He is expected back in court on June 28.
MBOMBELA – Local journalist Etienne Mare from Suburb News published the insert about how he voted twice, after a member of the public complained to him that she managed to vote three times.
The video has been widely circulated and police are investigating the incidents. Sibusiso Nkosi, spokesman for the IEC in Mpumalanga, said he cannot comment on the video as it is now under police investigation.
“This is something that cannot be allowed ever,” Mare says.
He told Lowvelder that he decided to publicise it as a matter of public interest, despite it being against the law.
“I don’t think it is a good feeling to have to appear in court, and I am worried to an extent, but it is more the fear of the unknown.”
He calls the woman Mrs “M”. She declined to speak to the newspaper, but recounts to him how she went to St John’s Missionary to vote. Her ID was scanned. Officials told her she could vote despite her being registered at town hall.
She decided to go to town hall and gave them the little paper from the previous scanning. Her ID was scanned again. “How can I be scanned in twice and the scanner doesn’t pick it up?” she asks.
She walked back to the door and had her ID scanned again, a third time. Then they marked her thumb in purple koki and she cast her vote.
Mrs M licked the mark off as as soon as she left. “I thought I can go vote again,” she says. She went back to the mission and voted again.
She licked it off again. Then she repeated the process, at Barberton High School. The third mark on her thumb was harder to clean off but was still possible, she adds.
“How many times do you want me to vote?” Mrs M asks.
Mare decided to put it to the test, in the public interest. He is registered to vote in Mbombela but cast his vote at St John’s Mission. In the video he shows how his finger got inked and wipes it off while driving to the next voting station – town hall.
“It’s a risk on my side but if I don’t do it we will never know,” he says.
The man inking him says his bosses are fighting with him and makes a point of marking his thumb clearly. Mare spoiled his second vote “to be on the right side of the law”.
He notes that at the one station he had to fill out the form that he is not registered at that station, but at the other he did not.
The IEC responds
Nkosi said that while the correct systems may be in place, it also depends on the public to be trustworthy not to undermine these.
He explained that the scanner was not online, and connected between different voting stations to alert them that a person has voted. Instead it tells the IEC that you are indeed registered to vote, and gives the IEC statistical information.
The mark on your finger, the stamp in your ID and being ticked off the voter’s roll are additional security features, and not all of them need to be present.
He could not account for why some people’s marks came off and others didn’t.
However, filling out a Section 24A form when you vote at a station you are not registered at, is the law.
“But through error or omission or the fact that they might have forgotten sometimes this is not done,” Nkosi said. “It is the presiding officer’s responsibility to ensure that staff are trained to ensure this and where it is neglected, the individuals are subjected to internal processes and removed or demoted. We ensure that it does not go unpunished.”
He added that not filling out the form does not make one’s vote illegal.
Police spokesman, Col Mtsholi Bhembe, confirmed that a case has been opened and that they are investigating two cases of the alleged contravention of the Electoral Act.
“If you want to show people that it is easy to commit a CIT heist, and stage one to prove your point, you are just as guilty as a CIT robber,” he said.