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Saturday, 11 October 2008

Giving rigging a chance...

When I first heard ECZ had decided to print 4.5m ballots, I immediately asked a friend how many registered voters we had in 2006 because I was too lazy to look it up myself. The answer came that it was 3.9m. So I subtracted 100,000 who I know may have passed away or simply never got round to re-registering (no new registrations are allowed for this election), and I concluded ECZ had printed 700,000 additional ballots. The question then came...why or why? I never blogged it, until today when I have just read that all political parties are equally worried.

3 comments:

  1. Does the ECZ have ballot spoilage figures from previous elections available? The number they have apparently printed would seem to assume both 100% turnout of registered voters and spoilage of up to 1 in 6 ballots at every polling place. This would seem to be a problem easily solved by a standard formula for all elections along the lines of #registered voters + %ballot spoilage, combined with accountability for accurate tracking of actual spoiled and unused ballots.

    In other words, the mere number of ballots printed should not be cause for concern in a transparent, impartial and uncorrupted electoral process. The fact that it does raise such widespread concern in the current circumstance I think says volumes about public perception of electoral fairness.

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  2. I think the standard formula would work well, especially in Zambia with life expectancy at 35. Simply put I suspect the "deaths" since 2006 more than compensates for the margin of error of "% spoiled".

    You are quite correct that that the "mere number" should not cause concern, though the 1 in 6 number seems too unproductive. If a company produced ballots with that level of spoillage, you would have to assume the government does not pay for the addition 600,000 since it is a printing error? But which printing company would agree with that?

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  3. My apologies, I was unclear, by "ballot spoilage" I mean ballot papers which are damaged or mistakenly marked contrary to the voter's intent prior to being placed inside ballot boxes, necessitating replacement. Now that you mention it, I suppose that number could also include any printer's errors. That said, 20% would seem abnormally high. "Spoilage rate" is sometimes also used to refer to ballots from boxes which cannot be properly counted after polls close, and so for clarity I am only referring to that portion of total spoilage that is detected by the voter themselves.

    Rates of voter-undetected spoilage (ie detected in the counting stage) for most national elections worldwide usually range from around 1% to 5% (US 2000 Presidential Election the rate was 1.8%). While I do not have access to figures on the relative number of detected vs undetected ballot spoilage, for the moment I find it reasonable to assume they are roughly equivalent (errors are often by their nature undetected). On that basis we would expect only a small percentage of replacement ballots required by polling places even with 100% voter turnout.

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