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Mess in Voter Lists
/ 11 Oct.'03 / 12:00

Inaccurate voter lists heat up debates on the eve of the November 2 parliamentary elections in Georgia, as the inaccuracy of the lists is one of the sources of ballot fraud. Despite many efforts of the international donor organizations to ensure development of the accurate and transparent voter lists, the problem still persists.

According to the opposition parties and the election observer organizations the names of up to 600,000 people, who are deceased, remain on the lists, while 30 percent of eligible voters have been excluded.

Recently the Central Election Commission (CEC) launched a web page where each Georgian voter can check if he/she is included in a voter list. However, many thousands of voters will not find their names in the list. Even Nino Burjanadze, the Parliamentary Chairperson and leader of the opposition election bloc the Burjanadze-Democrats, was not in the list.

The Burjanadze-Democrats launched an initiative called Protect Your Right to Vote on 9 October, after parliament speaker Nino Burjanadze discovered that her name and those of her family members have not been included in the list of people entitled to vote in the parliamentary elections. The Burjanadze-Democrats urged the population to appeal its offices in order to register voters, who are not included in the lists.

On 8 October, the election observer NGO International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED) listed the errors it had discovered in the lists. There are many voters, whose date of birth was given as 1800.

Tbilisite Sandro Vashakidze was not surprised that he could not find his name and those of his family in the voter list displayed on the official web site of the CEC.

“I’ve heard that the voter lists are inaccurate, that is why I was not very surprised that I was not there. But I was really surprised and even furious when I found the names of my two relatives in the lists, who died several years ago, this is outrageous,” Sandro Vashakidze told Civil Georgia. 

The procedures necessary to be included in the list are not very easy, that hinders improvement of the lists. The CEC web site advises those voters, who are not included in the list to appeal the District Election Commission (DEC). However there is no reason to appeal the DEC.

“I am an election commission member and even I was not in the list. I advise everyone to go to the Precinct Election Commissions [lower level commission], because there are too many voters appealing the DEC to include them in the list and unfortunately we can not deal with all of them,” Nunu Shekriladze, member of the Saburtalo District Election Commission in Tbilisi told Civil Georgia.

In the wake of the opposition parties’ protest and recommendation of the election observer organizations, the Central Election Commission decided to recheck the lists.

U.S. Senator John McCain, who arrived in Georgia on October 5 to assess the pre-election situation in the country, said after the meeting with the opposition party leaders that the voter lists should be improved as soon as possible.

“The representatives of the opposition parties express concern over the inaccurate voter lists. They say, the lists have artificially been increased by 600 thousand voters, that creates ground for ballot fraud,” Senator McCain told reporters on October 6.

CEC demanded the Interior and Justice Ministries to check the accuracy of the lists they were asked to prepare this spring. The finished lists contain 2.9 million names, compared with 2.1 million during the 1999 parliamentary elections. 

The deadline for improving the voter lists expires on October 24. Many observers say that too little time is left and there is too much to be done to make the list precise.

“It is absolutely possible to improve the situation within this period [before October 24], in case of the authorities’ will,” Tamar Zhvania of election observer NGO ISFED told Civil Georgia.

The opposition claims that the only chance for the presidential-backed election alliance For New Georgia to succeed in the elections is to rig the ballot. “Inaccurate voter lists is a perfect way for ballot fraud,” Nino Burjanadze said.

by Giorgi Sepashvili, Civil Georgia

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