In considering this Electoral Laws Amendment Bill, the ACDP is acutely aware of the dichotomy which exists and the need to balance the polarized positions.
On the one end of the scale is the right of access to information and on the other, the right to privacy. Clearly, there is a legitimate concern that providing unfettered access to the voters’ roll could open the door to identity theft and the abuse of personal information. On the other hand restricting access to the voters roll could call into question whether the elections were indeed free and fair, open and transparent, as these concepts are non-negotiables in the pursuit of democratic elections.
The ACDP understands the urgency to have this Amendment Bill passed, with the Local Government Elections expected to take place later this year. However, urgency must not become expediency, which undermines our democracy, causing the legitimacy of the outcomes of an election to be questioned. The principle of redaction and the restriction of access to information on the voters roll to stakeholders such as the media and civil society organisations could place impediments before these stakeholders, thus limiting their role as watchdogs, and potentially, or very likely, making an election outcome, unlawful or unconstitutional.
The ACDP notes that according to the Lawyers For Human Rights there some 15 million stateless people in South Africa, with 3 million under the age of 18. The vast majority of these go undocumented, have no access to essential services, become vulnerable and subject to abuse. As we begin preparation for Local Government Elections, statelessness, undocumented individuals, and lack of queue management at the Department of Home Affairs, are some challenges highlighted in the portfolio committee, that need resolution, so as not to preclude legitimate citizens for the democratic electoral process, while simultaneously ensuring that illegitimate individuals are not included.
While the ACDP understands the need to protect personal information, the redaction of digits of identity numbers on the voters roll may lead to electoral fraud and make the outcomes of elections questionable. This is undesirable and should not happen in a constitutional democracy.
The ACDP does not support the Electoral Laws Amendment Bill.