Stacey Norman unravels the mystery of spoilt votes with Prof Maphunye

Stacey Norman unravels the mystery of spoilt votes with Prof Maphunye

Stacey Norman interviewed Prof Maphunye, who explained how not voting forfeits the right to change leadership and what exactly reallocation of ballots means.

Stacey and Prof Maphunye

In the complex world of elections, many voters are left wondering what happens to spoilt votes. Do they somehow benefit the majority party or do they simply vanish into the void? 

To clear up this confusion, Stacey Norman spoke with Professor Kealeboga J. Maphunye of the Political Sciences Department at UNISA. Prof Maphunye's extensive expertise includes African politics, election observation, public policy, administration, democracy, and governance. 

His insights are crucial in understanding the nuances of the electoral process in South Africa.

Prof Maphunye explained that if a registered voter decides to skip voting on election day, their vote is not registered: 

"Remember there's a slogan, it's almost like a cliché, that your vote counts. So, if you do not cast your vote, your vote cannot count. It means it's zero, it's not there and therefore it reduces the overall electoral mileage that would have added to the number of people that eventually get to account for the people that will be representatives in parliament, either as independents or political parties."

In simple terms, not casting a vote forfeits the constitutional right to change the leadership of the country.

Many people in South Africa have strong opinions and desire a better future for themselves and their children. For those who are unsure of who to vote for, Prof Maphunye suggests that doing research and casting a ballot is better than sitting out the election. Tactical voting, where one might vote for different parties or candidates on different ballot papers, is one approach that helps undecided voters make their voices heard.

Professor Maphunye emphasised that withholding a vote or boycotting an election is far more costly than casting a ballot. 

"It’s not just about changing the face or makeup of the country’s leadership and the country but also about influencing policies and those people who will be representing us there in parliament. They must represent the interest and wishes of the voter," he said. 

A spoilt ballot, on the other hand, does not influence anyone and does not count as a vote:

"It doesn’t count as a vote, meaning that either the person is misinformed or disgruntled. I don’t normally recommend it."

The responsibility to vote is a massive privilege and should not be taken lightly, said Stacey. Prof Maphunye says citizens must educate themselves about the candidates and the issues at hand:

"It’s not just about a face on the poster; it's about the people who are sitting in those seats and best representing you as an individual."

Stacey asked one last question: “If you do not vote, be it a spoilt vote or you left the voting station after arrival, do those count as nothing? Is it zero, null and void?”  

Yes, it is zero. It gets a bit complicated as it depends on the technicalities and the nitty gritty of the electoral system of the country. There is something that they normally call the remainder. In our country, they do, to some extent, use that kind of system whereby after a certain candidate or political party has achieved a certain number of ballots, the remaining ballots which are not able to be turned into seats for that party or candidate (now we will see how it will work out for candidates) sometimes are reallocated. You know, it's called reallocation. They are reallocated to parties that would be having a majority number of ballots,” said Maphunye.

He explained that this system is very technical for voters. Prof Maphunye urged voters to do their research on not just political parties but on the nature of the electoral system that we have.

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Image courtesy of Unisa

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