Once in force, the Electoral Laws Amendment Act gazetted yesterday will amend the 1996 Electoral Commission Act, the 1998 Electoral Act and the 2000 Local Government: Municipal Electoral Act with the aim of improving legislative mechanisms already in place to ‘ensure’ free and fair elections, reports Pam Saxby for Legalbrief Policy Watch. Among other things, it is expected to prevent election results being challenged in court based on the absence of addresses on the common voters’ roll, as Legalbrief Today has already reported. This is according to a memorandum on the objects of the Bill adopted by the NCOP on 7 January. The ‘legislative intervention’ was deemed necessary in the interests of maintaining ‘political stability’ and ‘protecting the legitimacy of the elected legislative bodies from which national and provincial governments derive authority to constitute themselves’.
As Legalbrief Today has also reported, when the DA called for comment last year on its draft Electoral Amendment Bill, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) claimed to be considering ‘the bulk of the matters’ it sought to address (TimesLIVE). One was to increase the geographical coverage of registration and voting stations in other countries with significant numbers of eligible voters – and provide for voting to take place over weekends. At the time, the IEC intended approaching the Department of International Relations and Co-operation about expanding the number of ‘voting facilities’ for this year’s general elections, having reviewed the procedures concerned and identified certain areas ‘where diplomatic missions proved to be inadequate’.
Tabled in Parliament last July, the DA Bill was rejected four months later by the National Assembly’s Home Affairs Committee. While it is not yet clear what has since transpired, when the Electoral Laws Amendment Bill was considered by the NCOP on 7 January its chair, Thandi Modise, ‘ruled against any consideration of proposed DA amendments’ aimed at facilitating South Africans living abroad to participate in the up-coming elections (EWN). This does tend to suggest either that the IEC’s discussions with the Department of International Relations and Co-operation are still in progress – or that nothing at all will be done. The DA’s ‘petition’ requesting the President to return the Bill to Parliament based on an ‘unprocedural’ NCOP process appears to have fallen on deaf ears.
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