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6580: Can differing election turnout reports be explained? (fwd)

From: Sarah Belfort <sbelfort@haitiworld.com>

Maybe I should consign the November 26 elections to the wide realm of
situations where we'll never know exactly what really happened (Jean
Dominique's assassination, the coup d'état allegations, and the pre-election
bombings come to mind).  But I'm trying to figure out how to reconcile the
disparate pieces of information that have been posted here or that I've
heard about through the grapevine or on the radio in Haiti.

When I wrote earlier that, listening to radio stations in Haiti on the day
of the elections, it seemed that there was about 15% turnout, that was based
on my rough calculations from what the stations' numerous correspondents
reported from the field.  (When I said "independent" stations, I meant, not
the government station.  I do not profess to know the political inclinations
of other radio stations.)  I heard that in Ti Goâve so few people showed up
to vote that the polling places were closed by 2 PM.  One station-- I
forget, now, which one it was, possibly Radio Vision 2000-- had
correspondents all over, and towards the end of the day they reported
numbers of registered voters who had actually voted, as recorded on the
lists at the polling places.  I remember correspondents in Port-au-Prince
and Pétionville, and also in such places as Mirebalais, Saut d'Eau, etc.,
reporting turnouts like 15, 21, or 34 people, at BV's with approximately 400
registered voters each.  I do not doubt that some areas had a higher
turnout.  But over 60% total??!  No one claims that there were lines of
voters on Nov. 26.  But Aristide's explanation, that people everywhere
spontaneously decided to go to the polls in groups of 3, seems disingenious
considering that he appeared on national TV the day before the election
urging people to turn out en masse and with no suggestion of a 3-person

Late on Nov. 26 the radio station I was listening to reported that at one
location with several BV's, I think it was in Turgeau, a police pickup truck
arrived.  Uniformed policemen carried INTO the polling place boxes of the
type used to transport ballots.  The reporter was not allowed inside at this
point to witness what happened.  This seems very suspicious to me.  Now I'll
add another bit of hearsay:  Someone in St. Marc went to vote and saw the
person ahead of them, a Lavalas supporter, take a stack of 50 or so ballots
to mark.  The BV worker rather helplessly protested, "That's too many!"
[not, "one per person", but "that's too many"!].  The person went ahead and
voted on all of those ballots.  Perhaps these are isolated cases, or perhaps
they never occurred.  But my point is that, while I do not doubt that there
are tremendous numbers of marked ballots, I have my doubts about whether the
number of marked ballots accurately reflects the number of people who voted.

Following this reasoning, one hypothesis to explain the numbers reported  by
the ICIO would be that in places the observers visited, in between their
visits, voters were each given 3 or 4 ballots to mark, and random names of
other registered voters were checked off on the lists.  This would be
theoretically possible, as the ICIO, according to its reports, did not have
any observers who sat all day at individual BV's counting the actual numbers
of people who showed up.  (ie, I am not proposing to contest their
observations, I am proposing that what they observed was deceptive.)  I am
well aware that this hypothesis, 1) sounds like a ridiculous conspiracy
theory, and 2) completely conflicts with the observations made by radio
correspondents at BV's, and with the possibility that extra ballots were
marked after the polls closed.  But another explanation, that all the radio
stations were involved in a mass conspiracy, seems to me equally ridiculous.

Can anyone propose a reasonable explanation for all of these different
reports??  I would honestly like to know.

As an aside, I would like to thank Melinda Miles for bringing forth the
facts about the May elections and the voter registration process.  For
anyone who looked at the number of about 4 million registered voters and
thought, "that's only half the population", remember that the other half of
the population, "ineligible", is under 18.  I was going to point out the
actual registration requirements myself, as I do not believe that mass
segments of the population were disenfranchised, but she did it for me!

Sarah Belfort