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Distinguishing your AIC from ANC: IEC on how elections ballot paper was drawn up

The IEC released a soft copy of the ballot paper this week, revealing some of the parties whose names start with the letter 'A' have been placed right at the bottom of the last page and not on the first page, as has been the tradition in past election.

Political parties at the IEC code of conduct ceremony in Midrand. Picture: Abigail Javier/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - With 48 political parties vying for your 'X' near their logos on the four-page ballot paper in the upcoming elections, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) wants no confusion around who's who.

The IEC released a soft copy of the ballot paper this week, revealing some of the parties whose names start with the letter 'A' have been placed right at the bottom of the last page and not on the first page, as has been the tradition in past elections - with only on exception determined by a draw.

"Traditionally we have used a random draw to determine the first party on the ballot paper with other parties then following in alphabetical order. The African Security Congress (ASC) won the draw held during the Code of Conduct signing on 20 March 2019 to top the ballot paper," the commission said.

The African Independent Congress (AIC), a party formed a few years ago after it broke away from the African National Congress (ANC), bears similar colours and abbreviation to the ruling party, which in the past caused confusion among some voters in previous elections.

Now, the AIC is placed second-to-last above the African Renaissance party (ARC).

Here's a more detailed explanation, as provided by the IEC:

The Electoral Act empowers the commission to determine the design of the ballot paper to be used in an election. The preeminent consideration of the commission in designing the ballot paper is to enable easy identification of the party of choice by the voter, to facilitate the selection of that party with confidence and to minimise risks of miscast ballots.

Traditionally, the Electoral Commission has used a random draw to determine the first party on the ballot paper with all parties then following in alphabetical order.

In preparation for the upcoming elections, the Electoral Commission appointed the Human Sciences Research Council to conduct research to investigate key aspects of the usability of the ballot paper with a view to introducing enhancements to the design.

The outcome of the research proposed certain areas of enhancement to improve the legibility of the ballot paper and to accentuate distinguishing features between and among political parties on the ballot. These have been incorporated into the ballot paper design for 2019 National and Provincial Elections – including a re-ordering of the sequence of party identifiers on the ballot paper as follows:

  1. Full party name

  2. Party leader photograph

  3. Abbreviation

  4. Party logo

The research also established that there was potential for confusion among voters as a result of some party identifiers that use similar colours, abbreviations and logos. A specific recommendation was that parties that may cause confusion to the voter ought to be separated on the ballot paper.

These findings and the proposed solution were shared and discussed with all parties in the National Party Liaison Committee. The proposed solution was to retain the random draw for the first party on the ballot paper and thereafter follow the alphabetical order of parties as determined by the party at the top of the ballot.

Additionally, another random draw would be conducted to help separate parties which may cause confusion to the voter.