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Double votes and manicure moans: Here's what voting ink was meant to do

May 09 2019 21:19
Lameez Omarjee, Fin24

Incidents of double voting in the national elections on Wednesday, May 8, have led to questions over the security measures put in place by the Independent Electoral Commission to ensure fair elections.

Indelible ink – one such measure used to mark individuals before casting their votes – appears to be compromised after voters took to Twitter to raise concerns that they could remove the ink using cleaning products.

Member of the Congress of the People Deidre Carter said that the voting ink on her finger was removable with Domestos, a bleaching product, News24 reported previously. Carter claimed that she could vote at as many as five stations.

Leader of the United Democratic Movement, Bantu Holomisa, on Wednesday tweeted a video of the voting ink being removed. It was retweeted multiple times. 

News24 earlier reported that 19 people had been arrested in KwaZulu-Natal for double voting. The IEC has communicated via its Twitter account that double voting and removing voting ink are both criminal offences.  

"We wish to remind all voters that any attempt to undermine the integrity of the #SAElections2019 election process – including remove the ink mark and voting more than once – constitutes electoral fraud and is punishable by up to 10 years in jail," the tweet read.

Fin24 is yet to receive official comment from an IEC spokesperson on the matter.

A previous supplier of voting ink to the IEC is Asset Protection Africa. Its marketing director Justin Howard told Fin24 that ink could be removable owing to not being applied properly, dirt or petroleum jelly on fingers, or use of a low-quality ink formula.

AP Africa had supplied the IEC with voting ink in the 2016 municipal elections, but lost out to Lithotech, a subsidiary of Bidvest, in a 2017 tender. Bidvest said it was precluded from commenting on the ink and directed election queries to the IEC.

According to the tender papers, there are several specifications samples that the voting ink should meet. They include the following:

1. Six-month expiry

Indelible ink should have a shelf life of six months, and the supplier should be able to provide the ink on a regular basis in sufficient quantities.

For the 2019 national and provincial elections, enough indelible ink had to be provided for approximately 26 million voters at 24 000 voting stations.

According to AP Africa's website, its ink has a shelf life of three months.

2. Permanence

Among the requirements of the ink is that it should leave a stain when applied to the finger or nail which lasts up to seven days. The stain is to be immediate and dry within 30 seconds after application. The ink should not be removable by "washing, rubbing, or other mechanical means", the tender documents read.

3. Safe

The ink should be non-inflammatory and should contain anti-viral and anti-bacterial disinfectants so as not to pass on bacteria between voters.

4. Secret

The ink formula must be kept secret, and not be commercially available or reproducible.

5. Application

The tender documents also lay out requirements for the pen used to apply the indelible ink. This includes having a nib-type applicator to leave a mark no longer than 5mm. Each pen is also supposed to mark up to 1 000 fingers "without failure, clogging, dryness or spillage". Each pen should be usable for a period of six hours, with the cap removed. The pens should also be leak-proof during storage and sealed at delivery.

In his experience, Howard said that extensive testing had to be done on the ink during the manufacturing process, to ensure pens will work. Apart from the quality of the ink, it must be applied correctly, he emphasised.

"People rush, they want to get it (voting) done quickly. You need to take time to apply it correctly," he said.

When asked if ink could be applied on nails with nail polish, or even fake nails, Howard said that it was important to have ink applied to the skin too.

"You can scratch off the surface of the nail, but if it's applied on the skin it should last on the skin," he said. "It's important to apply on the cuticle and the nail," Howard added. 

Find everything you need to know about the 2019 National and Provincial Government Elections at our News24 Elections site, including the latest news and detailed, interactive maps for how South Africa has voted over the past 3 elections. Make sure your News24 app is updated to access all our elections coverage in one place. 

,election 2019

iec  |  voting  |  elections 2019  |  ink
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