As today's election draws to a close, reports from voters and electoral observers emphasize that the elections today were an improvement over the disastrously unfair first round of legislative elections on August 9th. Many reports credit the police with having a much stronger presence, and responding to reports of threats or threats of violence in time to stop worse. The police reported over 70 arrests.
It appears that the distribution of ballots and the organization of voter lists was improved.
But although the elections were improved, significant problems remained, as reported on this blog and our twitter feed throughout the day, especially:
-rampant voter fraud, especially political party mandataires and others voting multiple times;
-scattered violence, including shootings, and the burning of the Carrefour Municipal election office;
-widespread attempts by mandataires to influence voters, which is illegal;
-late openings in many voting centers;
These problems create two potential distortions for the voting results. First, although it is hard to assess the volume and direction of illegal voting at this point, it is possible that there was enough of that to alter the results in a close race. There may be more data on this in the days ahead. Police may release information about arrests, official reports from centers out of Port-au-Prince will filter in, and the observation missions will release their reports. There may also be clues to fraud in the results themselves, such as suspiciously large turnouts from voting bureaus that favor a particular candidate or party or other anomalies.
The largest potential distortion is from the voters who did not vote, because the August 9 disaster, combined with the incidents that did happen today convinced them that it was unsafe to vote, or that their vote would not be counted. We will have some indication of that when the turnout figures are released. Some of the non-participation might be apathy, but when Haitians believe that voting is safe and fair, they have turnouts at 60% or more.
One potential way of separating apathy from fear may be in the gender distribution of voters. Women in Haiti are typically more cautious about potential public violence, in part because they bear a disproportionate share of child care duties. Unless women are disproportionately subject to apathy, a relatively low turnout by women would indicate that fear was a factor. In many places, especially Port-au-Prince, our observers found that women were 10% or less of those waiting in line. But observers outside of Port-au-Prince reported women being 50% or more. Hopefully more breakdown on gender and voting will be available soon.