#WitsPoll: 6 reasons why the SMS voting wasn't a good idea

The deadline has passed for Wits University students to vote on whether they would like the academic programme to resume next week.

Wits Vice-Chancellor Professor Adam Habib announced that students and staff would vote on the way forward after two weeks of disruptions on university campuses nation wide.

But the idea of a poll has been hotly contested by protesting students, who are now taking legal action, and have attempted to have it thrown out by the court.

The SMS voting closed at 4pm and the university asked: "Should Wits open on Mon 3 Oct subject to appropriate security protocols being in place? Reply with YES or NO. Reply is free."

Digital activist and academic Dr Colin Thakur says the decision to use SMS voting for the Wits referendum is flawed for these following reasons:

  • The uncontrolled environment means that the electoral process is not regulated by any authority.
  • Outside influences and "shoulder-browsing" could cause voters to vote in a particular way.
  • Family members and other social structures may force voters to make a particular vote through intimidation.
  • There is no guarantee of anonymity, as cellphone numbers are tied to someone's vote.
  • There is also a risk of voter impersonation, where someone would take their device and vote on their behalf.
  • There is also the potential of vote-buying to sway the outcome in a certain direction.

According to Thakur, there are several South African examples of when SMS voting has failed to be effective, such as talent competitions Idols SA and The Voice.

Listen to the full conversation from The John Maytham Show (with Africa Melane):

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