PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS, SEPT 30, 2007                                                                                    
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RYPICS
I had the opportunity to be one of the several thousand election observers during the Sept. 30, 2007 parliamentary elections
here in Ukraine.  I thought some of the differences and similarities between the U.S. and Ukrainian systems was interesting, so
I put together a PowerPoint for my family about the elections.  I also took a lot of pictures.  Therefore, I put together the
following pages:  An html version of the
PowerPoint presentation, portraits and sightseeing.  Enjoy!
The day before the election, we went around to
various polling stations to get a general sense of
the preparations for the elections and introduce
ourselves to the people in charge.  Every place
that we visited the people were ready for the
elections. They showed us around, showed us
the sealed safes where the ballots were kept,
and the locations where the actual voting was
going to take place.
Another thing that we saw a lot of was parents
bringing their children into the polling stations.  
Whether this was simply because the election was
held on Sunday, or whether they were trying to instill
in their children the importance of voting, I don’t
know.  I prefer to think it was the latter, and if I ever
get to vote in ‘person’ again, I’m definitely going to try
to bring the little ones.  (However, I have only
participated in one election where I didn’t vote by
absentee ballot, so I’m not holding my breath.)
I was impressed by the ages of the people on the
commissions.  We met with some commissioners
who were definitely well into retirement, but we
also met with a lot of commissioners who were up
and coming political activists.  This gentleman
was the youngest we met with, being just 22 years
old, and the head of his polling district. (In fact,
everyone at this commission was right about my
age.  I think the oldest was the lady representing
the Communists.  She was 35.)
In the parliamentary system, one does not vote for individual
candidates, but for a list of representatives from a political party.  
The party decides who is going to be on the list.  In this election,
there were 21 different political parties vying for seats in
Parliament.  However, there was an extra box at the end of the
ballot where voters could mark that they were against all of the
political parties and didn’t want to vote for any of them.  I thought
the idea of a formalized protest against the government leaders
was good.  This way, voters could still do their civic duty by voting,
but they could still refrain from choosing a side.  To get into
parliament, a party needs at least 3% of the total vote.  “Against
all” came in at about 2.7%.  I wonder what would have happened if
against all made it into the parliament…
Additionally, each place was required to display the
party lists of all of the political parties.  Finally, each
location also had party observers representing a
number of different parties to make sure that the
elections was clean.  Interestingly enough, however, it
appeared to be that the party observers didn’t
necessarily need to be members of the party they were
representing.  We spoke to one young man who was
representing Tymoshenko’s Bloc as an observer, but
then voted instead for the Socialists.
In Ukrainian elections, they have mobile ballot
boxes that they take around to the severely infirm
that can’t come to the polling places.  When they
take the boxes around, they do it in teams of four
– one policeman and three commission members
(all from different parties of course!) – to make
sure that there’s no funny business going on.
At the end of the day, we were asked to observe one of the polling places
during the closing/count.  First (above) all of the unused ballots were
counted and destroyed, numbers were matched, and everything was
sealed up.  Only then could they dump out the ballot boxes and start
sorting.  
The sorting was actually
pretty interesting.  The
ballots were each read
aloud, and every member
of the commission was
allowed to inspect each
ballot.  Then they were
placed into piles.  If there
was any question about a
ballot, the commission took
a vote.  For example, one
person hadn’t marked any
of the boxes, but had put a
big check by Yanukovich’s
name.  The commission all
agreed that it was the
voter’s intent to vote for
Yanukovich, and it went in
his pile.
Then the tally.  The first time
they totaled the votes from all
the parties, they ended up with
one more vote than they
should have. They got it right
the second time around, all the
ballots were sealed by party,
and the results and all election
materials were taken to the
District Election Commission.  
Of course, all the commission
members still had to hang out
in case there was a problem at
the DEC and they had to do a
recount.  It makes for about a
24 hour day.
In order to open the station, a quorum of the
election commission members (usually 18
representing different parties) needed to be
present.  Although the commissioner was late at my
station, there was a quorum and the deputy took
over until the commissioner arrived. Then the voting
began.  In order to vote, voters were required to
show their passport.  The members of the election
commission handed out the ballots.
During the day there was a fairly steady stream of
visitors to all of the stations that we visited.  At this
particular location, there was quite a large Roma
(gypsy) population.  This was the closest that we
came to experiencing any kind of fraud.  We were
told that there were people that were circulating
among the Roma “encouraging” them to vote. When
the Roma came in, usually in waves, being mostly
illiterate, they would ask which box they needed to
mark to vote for Yanukovich, leading one to infer that
they had been paid to vote for Yanukovich.  We
personally never saw evidence of this, simply
anecdotal.
At each place I was very impressed by the
professionalism of the election commissions.  They had
to wait around all day and hand out ballots.  They tried
very hard to be as multi-partisan as possible.  In each
location that we visited, the commissioner, his/her
deputy and the secretary all represented different
political parties (with 20 parties in the race, that’s not
hard to do!).  Additionally, as they were counting votes
and handing out ballots, they were seated at tables with
a commission member from a different political party.  
Our first assignment on the day of the election
was to watch the opening procedures of one of
the polling stations.  They needed to count the
ballots and make sure that the numbers matched
the numbers the district election commission
gave them.  They also needed to seal each ballot
box closed and certify that the boxes were empty.
 The way the boxes were sealed differed in each
location.  Some had bright yellow tags (the plastic
kind that are used to package toys), some used
string with the string pressed into a seal of clay,
some were sealed just on one side, some on the
other, but all the boxes we saw had been sealed
in some way that it would be possible to tell if
they had been tampered with.