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#3661: Serious Obstacles May Prevent Popular Participation on Election Day (fwd)


Serious Obstacles May Prevent Popular Participation on Election Day

Haiti 123 - Five days before elections the Provisional Electoral Council 
(CEP)has still not fully published the locations of the purported 11,064 
polling stations (BVs) where Haiti's 4 million voters are expected to cast 
their ballots this Sunday.

As of May 16th 700 of those sites were not even designated despite the 
requirement in the 1999 Electoral Law in its Chapter 10, Article 125 which 
requires the CEP publicize the list of all polling stations one week prior to 
the day of elections.

Serious irregularities during the registration period prevented countless 
people to register in their own neigborhoods.  The OAS, in their May 2000 
Report on the Registration Process, stated that "an undetermined number of 
voters registered in places other than their residences. It is not clear 
whether or not these voters know that they must vote where they register 
which could cause confusion on Election Day..."

Anticipating chaos on election day the OAS went on to say that, "The Mission 
believes it would be appropriate for the CEP to address this issue through 
public announcements leading up to the election."  However, an informal 
survey held today of popular radio stations in the capital revealed that no 
public service announcements were being aired explaining how to determine 
where to vote.

The quick response that voters should go to the sites where they registered 
(BIs) is not enough.  Many of the registration offices were not converted 
into polling stations (BVs).  Plus, there will be almost 4 times as many BVs 
as BIs.  

When on Sunday, May 21st, a voter finds that her BI is not a BV, where does 
she go to cast her vote?  And if she is directed to another site after how 
long of a wait and how far will she have to walk?  (In the past Haiti has 
suspended all but emergency and official vehicles from circulating on the day 
of elections.  No announcements on this issue has yet been made.)

Several obstacles to an effective electoral process including the claim by 
many that they had no access to the registration process, poorly trained 
election workers (who were trained at the last minute because of labor 
disputes), lack of computerized, centralized or alphabetized voter lists, 
anticipated confusion and long distance treks by foot, may serve to create 
voter frustration and disenfranchisement.

This week's paid insert in Le Nouvelliste, Haiti's (Port-au-Prince's) daily 
newspaper purporting to publicize the voting locations (BVs) are not only 
late, they are wholly inadequate.  First, the information is presented as a 
chart with no written explanation.  What does the heading "Code BV" mean and 
how does it correspond with the codes on the electoral cards?  Second, some 
of the BV "addresses" listed are nothing more than "Chez Eva Mercer" which is 
merely the name of a family in their private residence with no address listed.

In a country with 85% illiteracy, why isn't this vital information being 
blasted clearly and repeatedly - and in Creole - over the radio air waves 
where most Haitians get their news?  

More frightening is that less than 5 days from elections no one seems 
concerned that voters don't know where they have to go to vote.


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