Haitian election controversy over, but questions remain

It seems that the Haitian election controversy that I’ve been following has been politically resolved, after negotiations between the interim government in Haiti and international officials led to what from the outside looks like a questionable solution: the compromise was to not include over 80,000 blank ballots in the vote count, which effectively gives Rene Preval slightly more than the 50% necessary to avoid a runoff presidential election. Here is a link to the Washington Post story about this compromise.

This morning’s Los Angeles Times ran a story that covered the irregularities in more detail.

First, in the LA Times story it notes that: “On Wednesday, U.N. peacekeepers recovered thousands of marked ballots and other election materials from a landfill north of the capital.”

Second, it also notes that an estimated 85,000 ballots with no presidential vote, and at least 125,000 additional votes were invalidated — that is 210,000 votes through out of the tabulation of the 2.2 million votes cast, a 9.5% invalidation rate (note here that there is still some disagreement about the number of ballots with no presidential vote recorded, 80,000 or 85,000).

Third, deeper in the story there is a quote from an official from the United Nations, who “estimated that about 3% of the ballots cast seemed to have gone missing.” Add that to the blank and invalidated rate, that indicates that 12.5% of ballots cast were either lost or thrown out.

Fourth, “David Wimhurst, spokesman for the U.N. peacekeeping mission charged with providing security for the election, noted that isolated incidents left nine polling places ransacked, possibly accounting for the dumped election materials.”

Also, this morning Delia Bailey, one of our VTP graduate student researchers, pointed out to me that the Washington Post currently has some very disturbing photographs on one of their websites. If you navigate to the following link, and click on “More photos” below the picture of the girl checking the preliminary election results in Port-au-Prince, you’ll get a new window of six photos. The first four are interesting photos of Haitian election administration. But the fifth photo (showing an election worker at a U.N. facility checking trash bags filled with paper ballots awaiting tabulation) and the sixth photo (showing bags and boxes full of paper ballots spilling out of a truck, coming into a U.N. facility before tabulation) are both very disturbing documentary of what can only be considered highly questionable and very lax election administration procedures.