The article analyses the debate on "racial" or "ethnic voting" in post-apartheid South Africa, looking at its implications for democratic theory. A critical review is offered of "sociological" (culture- and class-based) as well as "psychological" and political communication explanations for the unexpected tendency of the "coloured" voters in the Cape area to "betray" the African National Congress and line up with the white electorate after 1993. An alternative explanation is also offered, one which seeks to combine elements from theory of cleavages, class voting theory and Downsian theory of elections. It is based on the application of some recent developments of European and American "rational choice sociology" to the genesis of voting preferences as well as on the concept of language repertoire and central place theory. Finally, some possible adjustments to the liberal democratic model in contexts marked by economic, language, culture and geographic differentials are recommended from within the theoretical framework of the neo-contractarian views of democracy.