The Democratic Alliance (DA) Shadow Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, Adrian Roos said on Thursday 11 March 2021 that “hiding parts of an identity (ID) number on the voters roll […] is an assault on democracy”

While the DA agrees that personal information on the voters roll should not be made available to just anyone, the party feels stakeholders have “a legitimate need for this data”.

According to Roos, stakeholders would need to “check the validity of the voters’ roll”. However, access to view voters’ identity numbers were removed due to the Electoral Laws Amendment Bill.

The bill proposes hiding digits of the ID number of voters “from political parties, independent candidates, investigative journalists and researchers”. Roos adds:

“These stakeholders have their own historical voter data and do not use the voters’ roll data for marketing but to check for voter registration fraud. When the Protection of Personal Information (POPI) Act comes in to force on 1 July 2021 all of these entities will be subject to the same personal data protection rules as anyone else holding personal information including sanctions for abuse of such data”.

Roos explains that, unfortunately, “electoral registration fraud is a reality in South Africa”. Roos cites the infamous Tlokwe case as a “practical example of why it is so important to have the full ID number”

In the Tlokwe case, it was “only by using the ID numbers to trace where the newly registered voters had come from by comparing to previous voters rolls that it was uncovered that all the new voters came from the same settlement outside of the voting district”.

However, Roos says it would be impossible to track this type of fraud if the full ID number isn’t available. To counter that, the Electoral Commission says the full ID number could be provided when fraud is suspected.

Roos doesn’t believe this is a practical solution, saying that stakeholders would have to through 22 300 voting stations manually to detect possible fraud before they could motivate and apply for the data”.

And not knowing which data from other voting districts to ask for makes this an “impractical proposal”. Roos says that the POPI Act “specifically requires the removal of unnecessary impediments to the free flow of information”.

This would include personal information, “where the constitutional values of democracy and openness are at stake”.

“The Act further goes on to state that its provisions must be interpreted in a manner that does not prevent any public or private body from exercising or performing its powers, duties and functions in terms of the law”.

The DA will therefore “propose that stakeholders be required to submit a plan to the Electoral Commission indicating how the personal information on the voters’ roll will be protected in line with the requirements of the POPI Act”.

In addition, the DA requests that “this be required of all relevant stakeholders given access to the full voters’ roll”. He concludes that “our vote is a most precious right”, and the DA “cannot support legislation that threatens the integrity of our voting system”.

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Presh JM Reporter

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