Voting registration chaos in South Africa

South Africans who want to vote in the country’s upcoming local elections have struggled to access the IEC’s voter registration website or get registered at voting stations since Saturday morning.

Early in the morning, attempting to open presented users with a message stating, “This site can’t be reached”.

At 9:22, the IEC said it was aware of an issue relating to the mapping functionality on the website.

“We’re working on it, and services should resume normally in an hour,” the IEC stated.

Soon after that, the website was accessible again for specific users.

The IEC added a notice on the website that the mapping functionality was having issues for users of Chrome version 93 or higher.

It advised using older versions of Chrome or alternative browsers.

Certain users trying to access via alternative browsers — including Edge, Firefox, and Safari — were still unable to do so.

MyBroadband attempted to replicate the issue.

Initially, we found several combinations of device, ISP, browser, and network providers worked, while others did not.

However, shortly thereafter, we could not access the site under any circumstances, with a new notice placed on the site.

“We were unable to load the page you requested. Please check your network connection and try again,” it stated.

There were also reports that the IEC’s voter registration stations were experiencing problems with the new voter management devices (VMDs) experiencing network problems.

The IEC confirmed that the issue relating to mapping functionality was also impacting the VMDs.

It said they should still work even when there was no Internet connectivity.

However, one user on Twitter posted an image (update: now deleted) of one of the new VMDs, which showed it was unable to process offline transactions as the device setup had not been completed.

The person who shared the image, who appeared to be an election official, told the IEC he could not report it directly to the helpdesk as he did not have airtime to do so.

Frustrated South Africans on Twitter criticised the IEC for the issues.

“You are not ready; this system was supposed to be fully tested before implementation,” one said.

“You are useless. You should have anticipated these issues. You weren’t told yesterday about registering. You knew long ago. Your devs should have done proper testing,” another stated.

The IEC’s excuse was that “all systems used on a mass scale will experience teething issues”.

“We’re working furiously on fixing our mapping functionality issue asap. Please bear with us,” it stated.

At 11:10, the IEC said the issue with the VMDs had been fixed.

“Our VMD network is back up and running. VMDs being restarted and the mapping functionality is restored,” the IEC said.

“Sincere apologies for the inconvenience caused if you were queuing to register or update your address.”

However, the registration website was still down as of 11:47.

Now read: Digital ID for South Africa built on blockchain tech

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Voting registration chaos in South Africa