Voting 101: What happens on the election day

What will happen on election day? Your chance to vote for who will be in charge of your local municipality is now only a month away. The election date is set for 1 November and it is your chance to make your voice heard and let the politicians know what you want.


The first thing to do is to check that you are correctly registered and at what voting station. You can do so here – enter your ID number and it will tell you where you need to go vote on 1 November.

For municipal elections you can only vote at the voting station where you are registered so that is where you will need to go on 1 November.

What to expect on voting day

This election will be unique in South Africa’s history as it is being held in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. This means that extra precautions will be taken on election day, such as social distancing, sanitising of hands, and making sure people wear masks.

This may mean that it may take a bit longer than normal to cast your ballot but hold the course, even if you start getting bored in the voting queue. Make sure your phone is charged, bring a book, or find a friend who is voting at the same voting station as you are to keep each other company while you wait to make your mark.


In South Africa polling stations are normally open between 7 AM and 9 PM on election day in South Africa and this is likely to be the case on 1 November. And remember, if you are in the queue at 9 PM you cannot be turned away and the election officials must still allow you to vote – but try not leave it that late.

Voter preparation

Once you go into the voting station your election officials will check your ID and cross your name off of a list of voters registered to vote at that voting station (aka the voters roll). There may be other precautions taken to show that you have already voted, such as marking your thumb with ink, or scanning the barcode in your ID to make sure the holder of the ID number has not already voted. Closer to the time it will become clearer what precautions the IEC will take to make sure people do not vote more than once but some of the technology used to register voters will also be used to help ensure the integrity of the election.

Make your mark

Once you have been marked off the voters’ roll you will receive your ballot papers. Depending on where you live, you will either receive two or three ballot papers. If you live in one of South Africa’s eight metropolitan municipalities – Ekurhuleni, Johannesburg, Tshwane, Mangaung, eThekwini, Buffalo City, Nelson Mandela Bay, or Cape Town – you will receive two ballot papers. One of these will be for your ward councillor (the person who will represent your local area on the town council) and a second ballot paper where you will vote for a political party.

Your vote here can be different – for example the person you want to vote for could be from a certain political party or even an independent, while you can vote for a different party on the second ballot. Watch this FAN video to see how the system works:

If you live outside one of South Africa’s eight metropolitan municipalities you will get a third vote. This will be a vote for the district municipality. Each district municipality covers a certain number of local municipalities (except for metro municipalities) and you are given this vote to decide what party you want representing you on the district municipality.

Tallying up the votes

Once everybody has voted then counting will start.

Election officials, watched by observers from the different parties, will begin counting the votes throughout the night.

The first results will start coming in the next morning but we will only know the final results a number of days after voting day.

And that’s when the fun will start!

Let the (political) games begin

Following the last local government election held in 2016 we saw an unprecedented number of coalitions being cobbled together to govern various towns and cities. It is likely that we will see even more coalitions being needed following November’s election, with the ANC continuing to lose support, and at least some of its voters deciding to support other parties.

Talks around coalitions can often be drawn out as the various parties horse trade for positions and influence and this is very likely to be the case after 1 November. So expect to still be reading about the municipal elections well into December this year, as the make up of various municipal governments is finalised.

But remember, you have a say in who is in charge of who runs your municipality so make sure your voice is heard on 1 November!


Image source available here.