SEÇSİS security is debatable
I have been a volunteer for Oy ve Ötesi (Vote and Beyond) Platform for the last four elections. I will be at the ballot box for the fifth 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 of rigging. 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. This method goes back to the 18th century.
An alternative method is to miscount the votes when the ballots open. Finally, it is possible to replace ballot boxes at the District Election Board where the ballot boxes are taken after the elections are over.
These non-electronic type of election rigging, except for 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 District Election Board, where the boxes are sent, we can prevent major rigging. If we can check 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. But Oy ve Ötesi did its best to make a difference. The same goes for all the political parties. The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and Republican People’s Party (CHP) also tried to collect all the results from all the ballot boxes all over Turkey to make it a safer election.
My own experience shows that there has been little to none – maybe 1 percent – of rigging happened in the last elections. At almost every ballot that Oy ve Ötesi reached, the results that were gathered from the volunteers were in line with the legal results. However, even if it was 1 percent, it could have a greater effect if the rigging is done in strategically important 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 District Election Board 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 during previous elections very interestingly happened in the places where the outcome was slightly in favor of the parties other than the Justice and Development Party (AKP). If you remember, the explanation the then-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 600,000 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.
I hope that the government will assure us that the SEÇSİS system is fully safe. I know that no one would like to gain power if there is doubt in people’s minds about the way they came to power, but right now, SEÇSİS is very doubtful.