The IEC's Battle Against Fraud, Part 1

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This is the first of a series of pieces on IEC fraud mitigation measures—how the election commission is trying to reduce the fraud that plagued last year’s presidential elections. The piece is by Jed Ober, Democracy International’s Election Mission Chief Of Staff in Kabul.


How will fraud affect the upcoming elections in Afghanistan? That is the central question on the minds of both the international community and the Afghans who will cast their votes on September 18. Fraud has the potential of affecting the election process in a variety of ways. First, the corruption of IEC officials can affect the credibility of the process and potentially the results. Second, fraud can infiltrate the election process throughout the packing and distribution of sensitive election materials, including ballots. Third, fraud has the potential to affect voting in the polling station on Election Day. Lastly, fraud can affect the counting and tallying process. The election commission has taken considerable steps to help reduce the level of fraud in this year’s election, comparable to last year’s.

At Democracy International, we have observed the election and political process in Afghanistan since before last year’s presidential and provincial council elections. Over this time, we have witnessed considerable progress in the Independent Election Commission’s effort to mitigate the effect of fraud on election results. In a series of blog posts we will discuss specific fraud mitigation measures the election commission has adopted for the upcoming parliamentary elections and what their effect on fraud may be. This post focuses on the tracking of sensitive election materials.

I recently had the opportunity to visit the election commission’s packing and distribution center in Kabul which gave me an opportunity to witness firsthand one fraud mitigation strategy the commission has adopted. Unlike during last year’s presidential and provincial council elections, the commission has adopted the use of a sophisticated packing and distribution system for sensitive election materials, including ballots. Each polling station will receive a pre-determined set of ballot papers which has been assigned a unique range of serial numbers. Prior to these materials departing Kabul for the provinces they are marked with bar codes and scanned into a national database of sensitive election materials. This database will also be accessible at the provincial level where provincial staff will now be able to verify they have received the appropriate range of ballots from Kabul. The database will then form as the foundation for tallying ballots when they arrive back to Kabul after Election Day. This will enable the election commission to track ballots to the polling station level and to quickly identify discrepancies during the tallying process.

This measure will not in isolation eliminate fraud in the upcoming elections. It will help, however, to prevent some of the blatant fraud which occurred during last year’s elections. If ballots are captured and stuffed in boxes outside of the original polling stations they were intended for, the commission will easily know. This is, however, only one precautionary measure. The success of a suite of preventive measures and their proper implementation will help determine the ultimate credibility of these elections.


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