Death and elections: What happens when a ward candidate dies?

By Michael O’Donovan

Ward candidates had to submit their names and documentation as well as pay their deposits to the IEC before 3 June 2016.  Party nominations for the PR lists, along with the requisite documents, had to submitted to the IEC before 21 June 2016.

Both the lists were finalised on 27 June and the printing of the ballots started.

Since then several candidates on these lists have died. These include Dorothea Sekoto a 67-year-old EFF candidate for ward 32 in Matlosana municipality.

The ANC candidate for Walmer’s ward 7, Nceba Dywili, was killed a week ago. At least 12 other candidates are believed to have died during the run up to the elections.

Regardless of the misfortunes, the election will proceed with the lists as finalised on 27 June. This means that the names of deceased candidates will be on the ballot papers in several wards. Essentially voters will still be able to vote for, and even elect, these individuals.

The impact of the deaths on election outcomes depends largely on which ballot they were listed on. There is little impact if the candidate was on the PR list – even if the individual was high enough on the parties PR list to gain a seat. In this case the persons next on the PR list for that party can assume the seat. The situation is similar to one in which the person leaves the party.

However, if the deceased was a ward candidate the situation is different – particularly if that person got the most votes. It is possible for a dead person to win the election. Given how the seat allocations are calculated for the PR list it is to the advantage of the relevant party to continue campaigning for that deceased. Just as the name of the dead person cannot be removed from the ballot the party is unable to add the name of an alternative candidate to the ballot paper. However, the IEC has to hold a by-election to replace the candidate as soon as possible. Regulations require that the by-election be held within 90 days of the election.


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