Afghan 2010 Basics: Voters

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Some voters will have to thumb through a 12 double-sided page ballot paper when they go to choose their candidate in Afghanistan’s parliamentary elections.

Like the two presidential elections and previous legislative election, they will need to show their voter registration cards in order to cast their vote.

To be a registered voter, they need to be at least 18-years-old on election day, possess Afghan citizenship and have not been deprived of their civil right to vote, such as by a court.

At the time of registration, they will provide their name, father’s name, age, residential address and gender. They must also provide their thumbprints and, in the case of male voters, be photographed. While it is preferable that women voters are photographed, it is not a mandatory requirement, due to cultural sensitivities.

More than 17.5 million voter registration cards have been issued since 2004, with 376,000 new cards issued since last year’s presidential election.

On polling day, registered voters need to attend a polling centre in their province where they will be allowed to vote upon presentation of their voter registration card.

Some 5,897 polling centers have been approved to open on election day, September 18, 2010.

The voters’ identity will be confirmed by an Identification Officer who will look at the card’s photo (women will be asked their father’s name if they have a card without a photo) before their card is examined to check whether it has been punched, indicating the person has already voted. The Identification Officer will also examine the voter’s fingers to see it has not been marked with ink.

A Verification Officer will then dip the voter’s right index finger in a small jar of ink, record the serial number of the registration card and then punch the voter registration card.

The voter’s finger and card will then be checked by Ballot Paper Issuer before the voter is handed a stamped ballot paper and impartially instructed on how to cast a valid vote.

The voter will be asked to take the ballot paper and go behind a voting screen to mark it in secrecy. An illiterate or disabled voter has the option of requesting the assistance of a helper, which could be a relative, friend or the polling station chairman, to mark his/her ballot.

The voting system being used for the election of the 249-seat lower assembly, or Wolesi Jirga, is the Single Non-Transferable Vote, where voters chose one candidate out of all those listed.

In Kabul province, there are 600 candidates vying for 36 seats, meaning the ballot paper will be at least 12 double-sided pages.

Candidates are listed with their name, photo and a random symbol, which helps assist illiterate voters in finding the candidate for whom they wish to vote.

Once it is marked, the voter has to fold the ballot paper that the stamp on the back is visible and deposit it in the ballot box.