26 Nisan 2014 Cumartesi

"Ballot box reports without seal" argument is a Conspiracy Theory without a Conspiracy

Since some people refuse to bury the "ballot box reports without official seal" argument we must ask them ask how a voting fraud could have been committed this way, and who might be responsible for it. I mean, who were these conspirators that rendered these reports to be without official seals, and how did they achieve voting fraud? Since I worked as a ballot box committee member on 30 March Turkish local elections, I find it hard to believe that so many ballot box committees would forget or deliberately refrain (for Ankara, 2908 ballot boxes out of 12235) placing the seals on the result reports. Why would they do so? Or if they were not the ones behind this voting fraud, did someone else (people working for the AK Party) carry out the fraud at the election council level? Regardless of how we look at this question, we are bound to hit the Occam's Razor principle at every level. 

Let me introduce the First Occam's Razor that this conspiracy theory bumps into. According to the regulations, the committee chairman and another member are government employees. Since the ballot boxes were mostly located at classes of public schools, many of these government employees working as ballot box committee members were teachers. I have checked the signatures under several reports, and it is easy to see that indeed teachers working at a public school were mostly assigned to ballot boxes at those schools. My ballot box was located at a school that had primary and secondary branches and indeed many teachers of that school were on duty at several ballot boxes. The chairman of my ballot box was however a teacher from the nearby high school. One reason teachers are more likely to serve at the ballot boxes is that schools were on holiday the day after the election, hence the teachers were not required to go to work that day. 

All members of the ballot box committee are paid by the Higher Election Council for their efforts. The regular members are paid about 65-70TL, whereas the government employees are paid higher amounts, because they receive training. The government employee who is not the chairperson is paid about 150TL because they attend a one day course, so they "work" for two days. The chairman is however paid about 300TL, because they receive even further training. Teachers working at public schools are always complaining about their low salaries, hence teachers are more likely to ask for a ballot box committee assignment. 

The First Occam's Razor is this: If the AK Party had planned to commit voting fraud on massive scale, the first thing it would attempt would be to have their sympathizers appointed as the government employee members of the ballot box committees, especially the chairpersons. But, government employees must first ask for an appointment as ballot box committee members. We do not have any numbers as to how many government employees volunteered for this assignment and how many of them were rejected, but we certainly do know that this did not become an issue at all. If the requests of thousands of government employees to serve at ballot box committees had been rejected, we would certainly have heard about it in all the news. Since this did not become an issue, we can conclude that the AK Party did not attempt to have its sympathisers from among government members appointed as ballot box members

The point I have made with respect to teachers have further aspects supporting this argument. The appointments of public teachers has a well known, closely monitored and highly contested procedures. Turkey has about 800 thousand public teachers and they all would like to work at schools that are closest to their homes. It is very difficult to get appointed to a public school in major cities, especially Ankara, because so many teachers would like to live there, or already live there. Hence, there are long waiting times to be appointed to a school in Ankara. As teachers prefer to work at schools that are close to where they live, we may conclude that the political preferences of the teachers closely track the general political preferences of people living in that locality.

This brings us to the Second Occam's Razor. In Ankara, we may conclude that a sizable portion of government employees in the ballot box committees consisted of teachers working at the school that the ballot box was located, and most of these teachers lived nearby. In Cankaya and Yenimahalle, where CHP won the election by large margins, we may then conclude that most of these teachers were CHP voters. In any case, since CHP received about 44% of the votes in Ankara, it would not be far from truth if we concluded that out of the 24470 government employee members of all ballot boxes in Ankara, about 44% of them, or an even higher ratio of them were CHP voters. How could voting fraud could be committed under the watchful eyes of more than 10 thousand ballot box committee members, selected from among the government employees? Remember, I have not even gotten started on members of the ballot box committees directly representing  CHP!

Now, I move on to the members of the ballot box committees representing the political parties. According to the law, the five parties who had received the highest share of the votes in the last general election are entitled to have a member at each ballot box. This means, AK Party, CHP and MHP were each entitled to have a committee member directly taking part in the administration of voting, and then counting at each ballot box. Other than these three, two more parties were entitled to have members, but since I don't remember at the moment which party was the fourth and which was the fifth, we can say they did not bother with this at all. At my ballot box, MHP gave the name of a person to the election council as their representative member of the committee, but that person did not show up at 7AM on election day. So he missed the chance to be part of the fun, and we carried on without him:) 

The Third Occam's Razor is that the voting fraud argument automatically assumes all AK Party members to be part of that fraud. Since I was a ballot box committee member representing the AK Party, I can safely say this is completely and utterly wrong! :) Well, you may not believe me, and you may think I was part of that conspiracy, but were all people, every 12235 of them, who represented the AK Party at the ballot boxes throughout Ankara part of that conspiracy? It would be enough to have a single AK Party representative to have conscience and come forward to expose this massive fraud. Since not a single AK Party representative, out of 12235 people, have come forward and exposed this fraud, we can conclude there was no conspiracy at all.  

Those statisticians treating the ballot box reports (tutanak) as statistical data are missing the whole point. All of these reports were prepared and then signed by real people. They all have their names, addresses and Turkish ID numbers on record. As I have argued above, thousands of CHP sympathisers were appointed to work as ballot box committee members and chairpersons from among government employees. Furthermore, CHP had the right to have a person representing it at every ballot box. Besides the committee members, there were thousands of observers (musahit or gozetmen in Turkish) under whose watchful eyes everything happened. How could all these people come together and become part of a voting fraud scheme that involves preparing reports that does not carry the official seal? I don't understand. This is an allegation that simply aims to cast a doubt on the integrity of the election without specifically explaining how such a fraud could have been committed. If they are arguing that some reports do not carry the official seal, this might mean several things:

1. There were copies of the report carrying the official seal, carrying the correct results, but after the ballot box committee delivered the 2 copies of the report to the election council, they were changed there, the parties' votes were either increased or decreased. If such a fraud had been committed, it would have been much easier to produce the copy of the report in CHP's or Ankaranın Oyları's possession, and show that the two copies are different. No such allegation has so far been made. 

In any case, if the AKP carried out massive voting fraud with the cooperation of security forces and election councils at county and province level, the official seals of the ballot box committees are not destroyed or kept somewhere else; along with all the ballots, used, not used, valid, invalid, all of them, all the envelopes, and all other documents, the official seals and the Yes stamps, every document used in the election is placed in pouches, and delivered to the election councils alongside the ballot box result reports. If a massive-scale voting fraud was committed on the election night or the day after the election at election council level, they already had the official seals in their possession. Why wouldn't they use the seals on the forged reports? By the way, all election councils at county and province level have members from opposition parties. So we are talking about fraud that involves so many CHP and MHP representatives. And in Ankara, populous districts such as Cankaya, Kecioren and Yenimahalle had more than one county election council. At every county, ballot boxes numbered 1001 through 1xxx were under the jurisdiction of the first election council of that county, ballot boxes numbered 2001 through 2xxx were under the jurisdiction of the second election council of that county and so on. Cankaya had 4 county election councils and Yenimahalle had 3, each one having one judge, two government employees, and members from 4 major political parties each.

2. The committee stamped some reports but did not stamp others. I don't understand why a committee would make such an error or deliberately do such a thing. These reports are official documents and once the committee members give some copies away, those copies get out of their control. The committee members are real people, their names, addresses, Turkish citizen IDs are in record, their signatures are on every report for that ballot box. If the committee members are going to commit fraud, what difference would it make to issue reports carrying seals to say, CHP, MHP and several other parties, and give reports without seals to the election council that differ from those in the political parties' possession? This would be the dumbest voting fraud attempt ever committed.

3. The committee did not stamp any reports at all. Then, I would ask why didn't anyone, including the committe members and election monitors, object to this? 

If there had been any voting fraud at all, it would manifest itself as a difference in the respective votes of the political parties as recorded in one of the copies of the reports in the political parties' possession and the copy of the report delivered to the election council and used in calculating the tallies. It would have been sufficient for either CHP or Ankaranin Oylari to show us a single report carrying the official seal and the signatures of the ballot box committee, where CHP's vote is recorded as, say, 101, but the copy at the election council states it is 100, or where AKP's vote is recorded as 99, but the copy at the election council states it is 100. So far, neither the CHP nor the independent group Ankaranin Oylari has come up with a single example of such a deviation.

As I have explained in great detail in a previous blog post, the whole "Ballot box reports without seal" argument is based on scanned images of reports as provided by the election councils and published at oyumucaldirtmam.com. However, these scanned images are very small in size-about 60-70KB. It is simply impossible to represent the document accurately. The ballot box reports were scanned using flatbed scanners, and using the "text" setting of the scanning software. This preset eliminates all the watermarks on the paper and only focuses on the text on the page. Hence, it is normal in some cases for the seals on the document to disappear in the scanned image. I have been able to replicate this phenomenon using a document in my possession carrying an official seal. When I used the "text" setting on the scanner, the seal disappeared from the scanned image.

In conclusion, the whole argument is a suspicion and nothing else. It tries to instill doubt in the public and motivate them to ask "What if there was a fraud?" question. It does not even attempt to answer how this voting fraud was committed.

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