Track Afghan Election Fraud Without Going To Afghanistan
It doesn’t take a crystal ball to anticipate that Saturday’s parliamentary election in Afghanistan will be marred by fraud. The Free and Fair Election Foundation, an independent Afghan poll-watching group, recently documented 583 instances of pre-voting electoral violations in a scant 40 days. And if you’d like to do a little DIY election analysis, far from the reach of the Taliban, a different non-governmental organization has built an online tool just for you.
Meet Afghanistan Election Data, a web-based compendium of security incidents, patterns of previous electoral fraud and demographic stats from across Afghanistan. The National Democratic Institute, an international democracy-promotion offshoot of the Democratic Party (though, like its International Republican Institute counterpart, are less partisan than you’d think), put the website together. The idea is to give foreign observers visibility into Afghanistan’s latest round of polling — something previous elections lacked, especially last year’s brazenly stolen presidential contest. Think of it like a scorecard for judging the conditions of this year’s vote.
Alas, it’s not going to present real-time election results. Well, it will, sort of, but not until long after the vote. The National Democratic Institute will upload election data as soon as it acquires certified information – something that isn’t scheduled to happen until October 30, when Afghanistan’s official election commission releases final results. (Preliminary results could be public as early as October 8.) Right now, Afghanistan Election Data provides a lot of historical information for orienting analysis of the coming parliamentary vote.
Staffers, however, say that the website might feature some atmospheric data — maybe even updates about security incidents — while the vote occurs. Which is pretty likely, since Pajhwok and other Afghan news services will be furiously tweeting the election. And then there’s, you know, the news.
In other words, this isn’t a Pakistan-floods/Haiti-earthquake-style tool for aid workers or the military or anyone else working directly on the elections. It’s a transparency tool that “election observers, international organizations, analysts, journalists, policymakers and the general public can use,” says Chris Spence, the chief technology officer at NDI says, to “better draw conclusions about the quality of the elections process.”
And the heart of the tool is in its maps. Check out this page, for instance. Afghanophiles looking for information from previous elections can access a ton of mapped data — turnout, the womens’ vote, invalid ballots — in order to contextualize this weekend’s voting, all presented in KML, the language of GoogleMaps. Already, there’s data posted on hundreds of pre-voting current security incidents — down to longitude and latitude — polling center locations, candidate lists and much more.
Expect those security incidents to accumulate. The Taliban, which has already murdered candidates for parliament, today released a lengthy statement urging Afghans to boycott the vote and announcing that it’s “striving its utmost to foil these colonialist plans of the invaders.”
Still, there’s much more to this weekend’s election than the Taliban. For a crib sheet, check out our friend Joshua Foust’s overview for PBS. His bottom line: “Everyone Cheats.” Now, at least, we can see it happen, even if we can’t see it right as it happens.
Credit: National Democratic Institute
Monday, September 20, 2010
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