How to prevent rigging the elections
I have been a volunteer for the Oy ve Ötesi (Vote and Beyond) Platform for the last three elections. I will be at the ballot box for the fourth time this Sunday. As a technology journalist, I had the opportunity to examine where fraud can be committed in Turkey’s election system very closely.
First of all I should emphasize that there are electronic methods and non-electronic methods. Both types of rigging can be prevented.
Many of the non-electronic methods are easy to think of. First of all, there were rumors that a party gave already stamped votes to voters in exchange for money, if they brought back their unused ballots. There is even a Wikipedia entry about this. The most famous episode of vote buying came in 18th century England, when two or more rich aristocrats spent the amount of money it took to win. The notorious “Spendthrift election” happened in Northamptonshire in 1768, when three earls spent over ₤100,000 each to win a seat.
Voters may be given money or other rewards for voting in a particular way or not voting. In some jurisdictions, the offer or giving of other rewards is referred to as “electoral treating.” Vote buying may also be done indirectly, for example, by paying clergymen to tell their parishioners to vote for a particular party or candidate. Vote buying is generally avoided by not providing a “receipt” for the counted vote, even if it’s technically possible to do so. Electoral treating remains legal in some jurisdictions, such as in the Seneca Nation of Indians.
Secondly, it is possible to miscount the votes. Thirdly, it is possible to replace ballot boxes. Etc. etc. These non-electronic type of election rigging except vote buying, can be stopped if there is one or more very dedicated person who is concerned about the safety of the voting procedures. Even if there is only one person who ensures that the votes are being counted properly and that the same box that left the room made its way to the İlçe Seçim Kurulu, where the boxes are sent, we can prevent major rigging. If we can control the number of legal ballots, we can stop non-electronic fraud almost completely. In the last elections, no one counted all the printed unused ballots.
The electronic ways are harder to catch and prevent.
There are two places where electronic fraud can take place in the Turkish election system. One is at the İlçe Seçim Kurulu where the boxes are opened and results are entered into the SEÇSİS software. The people who enter the votes can enter them as they wish.
The other electronic opportunity to rig the elections presents itself after the votes are entered into the system. If the people who have the authority to manipulate the software want to change the outcome, they can do it.
That’s why the electric cuts of the last elections very interestingly happened in the places where the outcome was slightly in favor of the parties other than the AKP. If you remember, the explanation the current energy minister gave about these electric cuts was that “some cats destroyed transformers.”
When the electricity is out, manipulators leave no electronic traces.
The only way that Turkey can ever have safe elections is by having a volunteer at each ballot box. If we know the result of each ballot box, then no one can rig the elections electronically. It is the volunteers’ right to have a copy of the ballots’ signed outcome. If we can collect all 33,000 ballot results, then it would be foolish for anyone to try to manipulate the outcome. If we don’t know the real result of each box, then the system is not safe.