In some countries,
like Switzerland, the system is paper-based but the ballots
are scanned and the machines count the results. In Ukraine, even this would be
a major breakthrough.
this is how the system works in Ukraine. After voting stopped at 8 p.m. on Oct.
28, the count, done manually, begins. “Forty-eight protocols have to be written
by hand. In each one we have to write down all the names of 22 parties and
dozens of candidates, their results, tons of other information. If you make a mistake
in one, you can throw away all the others. My deputy was writing from 7 p.m.
until the early morning and crying,” says the head of a polling station in
district 223 in Kyiv, who refused to give his name.
By the morning of Oct. 29, the work
in the polling station is done and the ballots and protocols have to be taken
to the district election commission. There, the waiting in line can take days.
In many instances, commission
workers and observers have been working for 48 hours straight, like in districts
215, 223, 216 and many others. Exhausted, the workers stand or sit in little
corridors, with their boxes or sacks with ballots. A strong smell of sedative
medicine is in the air as some fell ill from physical and mental exhaustion. A
dozen people across the country have been taken away by ambulances with heart
The district commission has to
check all the papers from each polling station and accept boxes with the ballots.
Then they have to transfer data to the Central Election Commission server.
Later, they have to bring all the original protocols to the CEC.
Because the calculation system is
so complicated, it requires a lot of practice and qualifications, both in short
supply among many polling station workers. For instance, in Kyiv’s district
217, where members of polling stations were waiting in lines from early morning
until late night on Oct. 29, almost each protocol submitted by the polling
stations had mistakes. Some lacked a stamp, other lacked signatures, other
included corrections but lacked a correction protocol.
“How come you did not count one
vote? You have the amount of people who voted but the amount of those who
supported each party or candidate is less by one! Where am I to add this vote
to now?” screamed deputy head of the district election commission Tetyana
Vysochanska to one head of the polling station commission.
Three days after the polling
stations shut down, at 10 p.m. on Oct. 31, member of the district commission 223
in Kyiv sits with a large Soviet type calculator and checks if the numbers add
up in one of the protocols. They don’t. And so she sends the exhausted head of
the polling station for recount of all ballots, which, together with producing recount
protocols, takes approximately three hours.
As people get tired, it becomes
easier to play with numbers.
Some heads of polling stations
decided to be smarter and come in later. So they took their ballot boxes back
to the polling stations. “According to the law, at least one member of the
polling station’s commission has to be with ballots at all times, but we all
have jobs, families. How can we guard them for three days? So, there was just
one policeman there. Anything could have happen to the boxes,” confesses one of
the heads of a polling station in district 223, who spoke to Kyiv Post on
condition of anonymity to avoid repercussions.
The pay that these people receive
for this work is around Hr 1,130 ($141). According to the Central Elections
Commission, a half-million people are working in commissions.
When the system is so complicated, everything
depends on people and paper which can be bought and forged, respectively.
Why not offer software for sending numbers
directly from each polling station to the Central Election Commission? Or why
not buy scanners which can scan paper ballots and count the results? If there is any suspicion, it all can be
checked by the Central Election Commission and the police. There is a lot of
experience from other nations; we do not have to invent the bicycle again.
Instead, Hr 1 billion was spent this time to equip
each polling station with a web camera. The online video stream shows how
people receive their ballots and then cast them later. But the count matters
more than the vote.
For now it does
not seem like the government, or the opposition is interested in changing the
system. Nobody wants to kill the opportunity that they might want to use sooner
Post staff writer Svitlana Tuchynska can be reached at email@example.com