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Weather forecast for election day. Photo: IEC / Canva

Home » Elections: Removing ink from your thumb could land you in jail

Elections: Removing ink from your thumb could land you in jail

The ‘election ink’ on our thumb has become one of the most defining features of voting. Here’s how it started and why removing it is a crime.

30-04-24 11:29
election day weather
Weather forecast for election day. Photo: IEC / Canva

As election day draws nearer, some South Africans may already be thinking ahead to the ink mark on their left thumb – and how best to social media confirm that they’ve queued to ‘have their say’.

However, voters are warned not to commit electoral fraud – and it’s all thanks to the mark on their thumb.

Tens of thousands of magic markers will be used to put a stamp on voters.

But how did this all begin, and why has it been put in place?

Below, we answer some of the most frequently asked questions that crop up on election day – and the grave consequences it’s associated with.

THE HISTORY OF ELECTION INK ON THE THUMB

WHEN INDELIBLE “ELECTION INK” WAS FIRST USED

The 1962 general election in India has been marked as the first vote which put the purple ink on voters’ thumbs.

To this day, it has been heralded as the most “fair and just” method of separating those who have voted from those who have decided against it.

WHY DO ELECTION OFFICIALS PUT INK ON A VOTER’S THUMB?

It’s mainly used as a security feature to ensure that no-one attempts to vote multiple times.

The ink lasts on the skin for a minimum of 72 hours, comfortably lasting the entire length of an election day.

WHAT CONSTITUTES A CRIMINAL OFFENCE WITH ELECTION INK?

The Electoral Commission reminds voters that it is a criminal offence to vote twice or to vote when not registered which, if convicted can earn a person up to 10 years in jail.

So, if you attempt to remove the ink from your thumb after voting – in an effort to go and cast more than one ballot – you could be thrown in jail for it.

“The indelible ink is one of a number of security checks and safeguards built into the election process but the Commission wishes to remind all voters that an attempt to remove the ink mark constitutes electoral fraud and is punishable by up to 10 years in jail.”

FAKE NAILS?

Heard the rumour that those arriving at the polling stations with manicures are being blocked from voting?

You can ignore it.

No matter how ostentatious your nails are, that ink is getting put on your thumb come-what-may!