Thursday, July 11, 2013

Voting in alphabetical order

On Monday I had the interesting experience of watching a local election.  The choice of candidates was interesting to me. The folks here on campus (Logaweng area) voted for the local council representative and the mayor of Gaugidu (the nearest town).  I was surprised to learn our representative is on the urban council since this location seems so isolated by my viewpoint.  However, the fact we get electricity from Gaugidu makes us urban in this situation.  One of  the faculty members told me that it would not be seemly for a pastor to run for office. Women and students were not considered so that left only our three maintenance workers as good options.  Asemba, our campus driver and carpenter, was elected.  I think he will do a fine job.

Voting itself was quite different than in the U.S.  The polling officials were here for only a few hours. All the voters (students and faculty) gathered in the large Bung Haus ( open air meeting hall).  Their names were then read off in alphabetical order.  They would then come forward to the tables and line up to vote.  Their little finger was marked with dye and then they received a ballot for each position.  The ballot contained boxes where they would enter the number of the candidate they wanted.  For the mayor's position they could list up to three choices. They marked the ballots in a voting booth (made of cardboard) and then dropped the ballots into large plastic tubs.  At the end of the polling the ballots for the local council representative was counted and a winner declared.  I assume the polling officials moved onto another village then.

As I think about it, this system makes sense here in PNG.  Many of villages are quite small, (we had 86 voting here at Logaweng) so it would be hard to have polling officials just for that site. Since most villages are quite isolated it would be difficult for them all to travel to a central polling location.  With a relatively low literacy rate in the country it is easier for people to write in a number rather than a name.  There are lots of posters around to help people associate the names and faces with their number.  Since few people have IDs, making the finger with dye would help with voter fraud. 

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