From the news desk

Big turnout expected for local elections

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Political parties have until midnight tonight (Tuesday) to woo voters to make up their minds where to put their cross in tomorrow’s elections, with the first day of special voting having gone smoothly yesterday, barring a few hiccups.

If the record 719 000-plus applications for special votes are anything to go by, interest in these local government elections is high and turnout should be solid.

Turnout in the 2011 municipal elections was over 57 percent, up from 48 percent in 2006, suggesting local government is taken increasingly seriously by the electorate.

IEC staff are expected to complete 315 597 home visits by the end of Tuesday, since special voting began on Monday, for those unable to get to voting stations.

Special votes by army, police, IEC staff and emergency services and others unable to be in their voting area on the day would total 403 625, the IEC said.

With opinion polls reflecting a very high number of undecided voters, the closing stages of campaigning could prove to be the difference in closely contested areas, as will efforts to get out the vote for each party.

IEC chief electoral officer Mosotho Moepya pronounced himself very satisfied with progress on day one of special voting and home visits, saying there had been minor instances of incorrect ballot papers being delivered to voting stations, causing delays in their opening, as well as three accidents, one serious, involving presiding officers.

However, the theft last week of ballot papers from delivery vehicles in Soweto had had no impact in the affected wards.

There were also cases of community protests hindering voting in a handful of wards in North West, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape.

However, this is just a glimpse of the logistical juggernaut that will swing into action before dawn on Wednesday as all 22 612 voting stations in the country open their doors to those of the 26.3 million registered voters who choose to cast their ballot.

Elsie Mabote, 79, was among those who cast a special vote on Tuesday. But she reckons her special vote will be her last. It was a poignant occasion for the completely blind woman from Phomolong, near Atteridgeville, who was among the hundreds of thousands of voters who cast their special votes.

Mabote, who was accompanied by her son, has been blind for the past 15 years. “It is important to vote before I die,” she said, adding that her vote was for her unemployed son. Because of her health conditions, Mabote said this was her last elections and she hoped her vote would make a difference.

“My son is unemployed. He is sitting idle. I want him to earn a livelihood. He has four children. That is why I am voting. I have hope in the candidate for whom I voted,” she said, as she left the voting station. Mabote said she had voted in previous elections, but the change she hoped for never came.

Although she kept mum about what political party she voted for, Mabote told the Pretoria News that one must change a formula that had not been working for the past years.

“You can’t do the same thing over and over again and expect different results,” she said. She was optimistic with her choice and would die a happy woman if her son got a job, she said.

Apart from her blindness, she suffers from diabetes and respiratory disease. She can’t stand without support and cannot talk properly.

Mabote lives with her son in a structure built of wood, sink and plastic sheets in a backyard of a residence in the area. She said life was hard for the old and disabled living in Phomolong as the government had not done much to help them.

Reporting by

[Source: Election Bureau]

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