Monday, November 15, 2004

The voter's lists

Putin Takes Different Tack in Ukraine

One of the problems in the first round of voting had to do with the voter’s lists. Many people, when they came to their polling station to vote, found that either their name was not on the list or that it was misspelled or that there was some other problem with it. This prevented the overwhelming majority of these people from voting. That, I think, was the intention.

One intrepid precinct worker I am familiar with, though, let those at least who had their names misspelled vote anyway. This is a pretty significant thing to do in a region (the same is true in Russia) with a saying that if you don’t have the proper papers, you are as insignificant as a bug. The fact is that around here if you don’t have the right papers or if those papers are not right in some way, including errors in the name, you will not be able to do what you need to do or want to do. And this is so partly because the lower level worker needs to leave a paper trail to protect himself in the bureaucracy. (This is a highly bureaucratic system here and has been for hundreds of years even before the Soviet Union.) So what she did was very significant. And other poll workers began to do the same thing after they saw what she had done. The logjam was broken in that precinct at least.

Of course, the Yanukovych people will say that these votes are illegal and should be disqualified and will argue that this is one more example of dirty tricks from the Yuschenko campaign. And many press outlets seem to agree, pointing to allegations of dirty tricks on both sides—what passes for objective journalism these days. But this article in the Moscow Times states that one million people were not allowed to vote because of these voter lists. One million people. (Some say that it was even more than that.) That is one million out of a total population of about 48 million, or 2%. I don’t know what the total voting population is but it is probably under 50%. Whatever it is, though, a million people not allowed to vote is a pretty serious matter. And many say that this problem with the voter’s list has never happened before ever. To argue an equivalence in the ability to sway the election between a party out of power and a party which holds the levers of governmental power and has not shown itself to scruple in using that power, is to deny what is looking you in the face.

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