It starts by cutting the bright green seal on the lid of the ballot box, but the tedious task of auditing just one box among five hangars’ worth in Afghanistan’s contested presidential election often ends only hours later. The pace of counting continues to lag amid challenges by both campaigns two days after rival candidates Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah stood with Secretary of State John Kerry and pledged to accept the results of an election audit they vowed would end before NATO leaders meet next month to discuss their future commitments in Afghanistan. Once the seals are cut, the box is opened and some quick math done to match the number of ballots with a tally sheet inside. Things slow from there. While an auditor form the Afghan Independent Election Commission flips through several bundles of ballots, observers from the rival campaigns lean in, peering at check marks and scribbles to pull aside the ballots they consider suspicious.Full Article: Despite agreement, Afghan vote review still slow as deadline looms - News - Stripes.
Secretary of State John Kerry made an unannounced visit here on Thursday to press Afghanistan’s rival presidential candidates to form a government of national unity and rescue the political agreement he negotiated almost four weeks ago. The Obama administration is urging Afghan politicians to accept the result of an internationally monitored audit so a new president can be inaugurated before NATO nations hold a summit meeting in Wales in early September. “We would like to see the president inaugurated and arriving at NATO as part of a government of national unity,” said a senior State Department official who is traveling with Mr. Kerry.Full Article: Kerry Visits Afghanistan to Urge Deal on the Election - NYTimes.com.
Afghanistan’s election audit needs to be fast and decisive to avert the threat of spiralling instability as US troops pull out, but attempts to speed up the process are bogged down in squabbles and confusion. Election officials are sorting through more than eight million votes in front of domestic observers, international monitors and representatives from the two presidential candidates. Every individual vote is physically examined and, if either campaign team complains, it is put to one side for further assessment. In a sweltering warehouse in Kabul on Monday, a UN official peered at a row of disputed ballot papers from the eastern province of Paktika — a hotbed of alleged fraud on polling day more than seven weeks ago. Both campaign teams had alleged that some papers showed suspiciously similar tick marks for their opponent, leading to a noisy four-hour dispute over one single ballot box. “We have a pattern here,” the adjudicating UN official said, pointing at some ticks. “But it is only three in a row, so it is ok. Now let’s look at the other side’s complaints.”Full Article: The Peninsula Qatar - Snags pile up at Afghan poll audit.
A massive operation to check eight million votes in Afghanistan’s disputed elections has resumed in Kabul. Vote-checking restarted on Sunday after a holiday break without the involvement of one of the candidates, but Abdullah Abdullah later rejoined the process. Mr Abdullah had claimed that “widespread fraud” denied him victory over his rival Ashraf Ghani. The vote will see power transferred from Hamid Karzai, the only president since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. Around 23,000 ballot boxes from 34 provinces will be brought to the Independent Election Commission (IEC) headquarters in Kabul. … The boxes have been stored in provincial capitals around Afghanistan since a second round of polling on 14 June.Full Article: BBC News - Afghanistan elections: Audit process resumes.
Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election plunged deeper into crisis on Sunday when one of the main contenders accused a deputy of President Hamid Karzai of orchestrating fraud in favour of his rival. Supporters of Abdullah Abdullah, a former foreign minister, released an audio recording they said was Vice President Mohammad Karim Khalili encouraging vote-rigging in favour of Ashraf Ghani, the other contender in the race. Khalili’s and Ghani’s staff dismissed the recording as a fake. Allegations of mass fraud have overshadowed the outcome of the vote, which was meant to be the first democratic transition of power in Afghanistan’s history and came before the withdrawal of international combat troops at the end of this year. The eight million votes cast in the second round of the election, held in June, are currently being audited under U.N. supervision, according to a deal brokered by the United States.Full Article: Afghanistan election crisis deepens with new fraud allegations | Reuters.
The mammoth task of auditing eight million votes cast in the second round of Afghanistan’s presidential election will restart on Saturday, the electoral commission said today, but disputes still hang over the process. A US-brokered agreement to audit all ballots defused a crisis this month, but the process has stalled three times since and the candidates have yet to agree on how to disqualify votes.Full Article: Troubled Afghan election audit gets green light, but disputes remain | World | The Malay Mail Online.
The Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan (IEC) said Wednesday that the vote audit for the presidential election will resume on Saturday. A statement released by IEC said the audit will be resumed following a break for the Eid al-Fitr national holiday. The statement further added that the Independent Election Commission (IEC) has formally adopted criteria for the recount and invalidation of ballots, as part of its 100% audit of the run-off round of voting for the Presidential election. “The adoption of the criteria is consistent with the laws of Afghanistan and the mandate of the IEC. The criteria are based on a proposal of the United Nations, finalized after extensive consultations with the campaign teams of both presidential candidates, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and Dr. Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai,” the statement said.Full Article: Afghanistan presidential vote audit to resume on Saturday - Khaama Press (KP) | Afghan News Agency.
Three airless aluminium warehouses, shaped like giant armadillos, sit hunched on the outskirts of Kabul. Inside hundreds of volunteers and international election observers have been bustling around in stifling heat, arguing over the shape of tick-marks on individual ballots. During Ramadan the lack of food and drink made the stale atmosphere inside the godowns all the more draining. The Ramadan fast has since broken, but the counting goes on. Until it has finished, the presidential election that was supposed to replace Hamid Karzai hangs in suspension. After a surprising reversal of fortunes suddenly favoured Ashraf Ghani in the second round of the presidential elections, his opponent, Abdullah Abdullah, cried foul. Alleging fraud, several of his powerful supporters threatened to establish a breakaway government. It took an emergency agreement brokered by John Kerry, America’s secretary of state, to keep the process alive, but the deal is starting to show some of its inherent flaws. Mr Kerry has moved on and the two presidential hopefuls are now left to wrestle over its shortcomings.Full Article: Power-sharing in Afghanistan: The election that never ended | The Economist.
Seemingly endless squabbles are interrupted by full-scale shouting matches. Campaign aides mutter suspiciously about what foreign visitors might be up to. And ballot boxes are piling up, waiting to be cracked open and examined for signs of fraud. In two spartan, stifling warehouses on the edge of Kabul, hundreds of Afghans, Americans and Europeans are engaged in a last-ditch attempt to salvage an acceptably democratic result from an election dispute that has been tumbling toward a street fight, or worse. They are auditing all of the roughly eight million ballots cast in last month’s presidential runoff, trying to separate fraud from fact. But a week into the process, the audit has engendered little confidence, and is already desperately behind schedule.Only 4.5 percent of the roughly 22,000 ballot boxes had been examined by Wednesday. Each day has seemed to yield some new dispute or confusion that has put on the brakes. Does writing “insh’allah” — God willing — next to the name of a candidate on a ballot constitute a legitimate vote? Is it proper for campaign representatives to move between tables, urging colleagues to argue harder? And who was that tall, bearded foreigner with no badge?Full Article: Afghanistan’s Election Result Hinges on a Squabble-Prone Audit - NYTimes.com.
Afghanistan’s audit of millions of ballots from the presidential runoff vote is being slowed down by disputes. But Thijs Berman, the EU’s chief election observer, tells DW what matters is that the audit is done properly. It’s only been a few days since Afghanistan began an audit of more than eight million votes cast in the June 14 runoff presidential election but the process has already been marred by walkouts by both sides. Although the country’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) said that the process would take around three weeks, with teams working in two shifts to audit around 1,000 ballot boxes a day, the exercise may take longer than expected as the two sides still appear at odds over the ground rules for the audit. The audit had been agreed upon by rival presidential candidates Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani following Abdullah’s claims of massive fraud, which had threatened to plunge the conflict-ridden country into a political crisis. The agreement, brokered by US Secretary of State John Kerry, comes at a crucial time as the United States, Afghanistan’s biggest foreign donor, prepares to withdraw most of its combat troops by the end of this year. Thijs Berman, the chief election observer of the EU Election Assessment Team (EAT) in Afghanistan, says in a DW interview, that it is not uncommon for audits to lead to discussions, especially over ‘suspect votes’, and adds that the important thing is that the audit is conducted properly.Full Article: EU: 'A slight delay is better than an electoral crisis' | Asia | DW.DE | 21.07.2014.
Afghan election workers on Thursday began auditing the votes cast in last month’s presidential election runoff, monitored by American and United Nations observers. The audit of almost eight million ballots cast in the June 14 runoff was part of a deal brokered last weekend by Secretary of State John Kerry to ease a dispute between the two candidates, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, that had threatened to fracture Afghanistan’s government only months before the NATO-led combat mission here is to formally end. Mr. Abdullah and Mr. Ghani also agreed to enact broad changes to Afghanistan’s system of government in the coming years. But first the audit must determine who will actually be Afghanistan’s next president. It is a huge undertaking that is expected to take three to six weeks and, officials cautioned, run into snags along the way.Full Article: Afghanistan Begins Audit of Presidential Election - NYTimes.com.
Afghanistan: United Nations Assistance Mission to oversee Afghanistan’s presidential election audit | UPI
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced Saturday during his visit to Kabul that Afghanistan will undertake an audit of the votes cast in the presidential election run-off on June 14. The audit will determine which candidate succeeds Hamid Karzai. Preliminary election results released show former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani in the lead with 56.44 percent of the vote and former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah trailing behind with 43.56 percent. Abdullah challenged the legitimacy of the election, alleging fraud and questioning the Independent Election Commission’s preliminary election results. Kerry arrived in Kabul on Friday to meet with the candidates regarding the political transition. In a joint press conference, Ghani emphasized Afghanistan’s need for “the most intensive and extensive audit possible to restore faith [in the election].”Full Article: United Nations Assistance Mission to oversee Afghanistan's presidential election audit - UPI.com.
Editorials: After Afghanistan’s questionable election, a real chance for peace | The Washington Post
A week ago the political system fostered by the United States in Afghanistan was on the brink of collapse, with a new civil war being the likely result. After Afghan election authorities announced the preliminary results of a presidential election runoff, the apparent loser, Abdullah Abdullah, readied what looked to some like a coup, dispatching forces to Kabul police stations and lining up provincial governors to endorse his announcement of a government. Timely phone calls to Mr. Abdullah and rival Ashraf Ghani, first by Secretary of State John F. Kerry and then by President Obama, temporarily defused the crisis. Now Mr. Kerry has brokered an accord that appears to establish a clear plan for arbitrating the dispute over the election and establishing a stable government — a turnaround so remarkable that the U.N. representative in Kabul is calling it “not just a top-notch diplomatic achievement [but] close to a miracle.”Full Article: After Afghanistan’s questionable election, a real chance for peace - The Washington Post.
Massachusetts voters will be able to cast their ballots early beginning in 2016, under a new law signed by Gov. Deval Patrick on Thursday. “Whenever we have a law that expands access to the ballot and makes it easier for people to register and to vote, it makes our democracy better,” Patrick said moments after signing the law, surrounded by legislators and voting reform activists. The election reform law allows for early voting in biennial statewide elections, starting 11 business days before an election and ending two business days before Election Day. The law also establishes online voter registration and requires the Secretary of State’s office to develop a tool that lets voters check their registration status and their polling location online. The law allows 16 and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote, although they will not be allowed to cast a ballot until they turn 18.Full Article: Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick signs early voting into law | masslive.com.
The State Election Commission has discovered that the votes of 1,114 people in Richland County were not counted in the November 5 election. The results from one machine were overlooked in the vote count. The votes were from absentee voters who cast their ballots in person at the Richland County Elections and Registration Office. The votes would not have changed the outcome of any of the races or the ballot question if they had been counted. But it raises the question: What’s done to protect your vote and make sure it counts? Chris Whitmire, spokesman for the State Election Commission, says, “There’s no excuse for not counting any ballot and there are ample checks and balances in place that should prevent that from happening.” Richland County Elections director Howard Jackson says, “We had procedures in place and we just didn’t follow those procedures.” He says his office is taking steps to make sure it never happens again.Full Article: 1,114 Richland Co. Votes Not Counted; What's Done to Protect You - WSAV: News, Weather, and Sports for Savannah, GA.
Comal County wants to recount Tuesday’s ballots by hand to resolve problems with both the initial election results from electronic voting machines and the revised tallies those machines produced Wednesday. The revised numbers didn’t change the outcome of any race. Confidence in them, though, plummeted this week because they indicate 649 ballots were cast in the contest for Place 3 on the Schertz City Council, despite only 540 voters being registered in the part of the town that’s in Comal County, officials said. County Judge Sherman Krause conferred with the machine vendor, Election Systems & Software, and the secretary of state’s office. The balloting included three at-large council races in Schertz, a Comal Independent School District bond election and a contested seat on the Cibolo Municipal Authority board. An audit of all 179 voting machines Wednesday showed 16,101 votes were cast countywide, not the 13,686 reported Tuesday night. The Schertz numbers didn’t shrink, they grew.Full Article: Comal will seek a recount over election oddities - San Antonio Express-News.
Comelec chief Sixto Brillantes will never allow a manual recount of even only the automated senatorial voting. He will do all to block it, from stunning his critics with the cost (“Pay up P200 million first”) to having presidential spokesmen speak for him (“We preferred to sweep the entire slate but we didn’t”). A manual recount is forbidden. For, it not only will confirm the statistically dubious 60-30-10 percent outcomes of winners and losers in all regions. It could also expose that there were more votes than voters. The discrepancy of votes and voters is the reason why both the precinct counting and the official canvassing were never completed. No politician is questioning for fear perhaps of the powerful Comelec, critics say. To recall, Brillantes on Election Day, May 13, declared a low 65-percent voter turnout, 33.8 million of the 52 million registered voters. It was only a midterm balloting, he said. The next day the seven Comelec commissioners convened as the national board of canvassers. Sluggishly they started with the advanced overseas votes, since undisclosed kinks were delaying the transmissions of local results to the central server. Then suddenly on Thursday, May 16th, they proclaimed six senators, and on Friday the 17th three more.Full Article: Will manual recount showmore votes than voters? | Opinion, News, The Philippine Star | philstar.com.
Kenya’s electoral commission has said it is auditing election results so far tallied to iron out discrepancies that have been detected. With 87% of constituencies declared from Monday’s vote, Uhuru Kenyatta retains a significant lead over his rival Prime Minister Raila Odinga. He has 50% of the vote, against 43.3% for Mr Odinga. A candidate needs more than 50% to avoid a run-off. Officials had said the results would be finalised on Friday. “There may have been errors and discrepancies here and there. Some we have already detected and we are working on them,” Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper quotes James Oswago, chief executive of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), as saying. … Mr Oswago’s announcement came after Mr Odinga’s Cord alliance had complained that the votes from 11 constituencies were missing from the 254 officially tallied so far, the Daily Nation reports. This meant that Mr Odinga was missing 281,611 votes compared to 25,863 for Mr Kenyatta for those constituencies, Cord said.Full Article: BBC News - Kenya election: Audit after 'count errors'.
The Pima County Board of Supervisors denied a request from its Election Integrity Commission to sort early ballots by precinct for a special hand audit for this election. The board spent about an hour Tuesday listening to commissioners and activists describe the need for an improved ballot-counting process. Pima County is the only county in the state that doesn’t sort ballots by precinct, said commissioner Michael Duniho. “Resisting improvement in vote count auditing has earned Pima County a reputation for suspect elections,” he told the board. A precinct-level hand count would confirm the accuracy of the machine count, Duniho said.Full Article: Supervisors reject request for special hand ballot audit.
Voting irregularities in Philadelphia on Election Day have prompted city official to launch an audit. City Controller Alan Butkovitz announced Tuesday afternoon that his office would conduct an audit of the Philadelphia City Commissioners’ handling of the election, in light of the fact that more than 27,000 individuals in the city were forced to vote by provisional ballot on Nov. 6. There are plenty of questions to be answered about how the election went down in Philadelphia. In a letter sent to the city commissioners – a three member board that is responsible for conducting elections in Pennsylvania’s largest city – Butkovitz said there were numerous reported incidents where individuals who had voted in one election district for years were forced to vote with a provisional ballot this year because their names had been removed from the voting rolls. The 27,000 provisional ballots is more than double the number of such ballots cast in 2008 – though turnout was actually slightly lower this time around.Full Article: Audit of Philadelphia election process planned | PA Independent.