The geography of elections

The starting point for the managing of elections is the municipality. The number and location of municipalities is determined by the Municipal Demarcation Board (MDB) ostensibly on objective grounds.By Michael O’Donovan

This demarcation process can be a highly contested issue as made evident by recent events in Vuwani/Malamulele.  The municipality is then divided into wards and voting districts by the MDB and IEC respectively. These divisions have to ensure equity between voters and the operational efficiency of the election process.

The first step is for the number of council seats to be determined. This is done by the Local Government Minister using a simple mathematical formula. The Minister does this on the basis of the type of municipality and the number of registered voters in each municipality.

For example Metros get 50 councillors plus one councillor for every 10 000 registered voters. Category B municipality with more than 100 000 voters gets 48 councillors plus one additional seat for every 8 333 voters.

Once the number of council seats has been determined the Municipal Demarcation Board (MDB) defines wards for each municipality. As only half the seats in local councils are occupied by ward councillors (the other half are occupied by those elected on the PR list) the number of to be determined is equal to half the total number of council seats. The MDB has to determine the geographical boundaries in such a way that every ward has approximately the same number of registered voters.  The MDB is allowed, by law,  only a  15% deviation in the number of registered voters.

The wards as defined by the MDB are then passed on to the IEC which breaks the wards up into voting districts. The voting districts are defined in a way that optimises their management of the election. The IEC needs to ensure that nobody is too far from a voting station (or they have to put mobile voting station in place) and that each voting station accommodates a reasonable share of voters on voting day.

Elections take place at the voting station located in every voting district. The votes are counted at the voting station and the results of all voting stations in a given ward are combined to determine who the ward councillor will be. The results from all the voting districts in a municipality are combined to determined who will join the ward councillors to fill the remaining PR seats on the local council.


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