Monday, October 04, 2004


Where Have All The Afghan Voters Gone?

From the Washington Times

The overwhelming response to a voter-registration campaign, with about 10.6 million identity cards issued, has shown the importance that ordinary citizens are placing on these elections. More than 40 percent of the registered voters are women.
The above is interesting. Afghanistan had a population of approximately 25 million a while ago, more today, and is growing rapidly. It is a very young country; of those 25 mil, approx 50-55% are old enough to vote.

Let's do some back-of-the-envelope math.
  • 50%-55% of 25m = between 12.50 and 13.75 million voters

  • Now let’s turn to the 10.6 million voters already registered. 60% of the 10.6 million are men and 40% are women, so that makes 6.36 million men and 4.24 million women

  • There should be approx as many voting-age women as men in the country. So the number of unregistered women voters is 6.36-4.24 = 2.12 million missing women voters

  • Adding those 2.12 million women to the 10.6 million total voters would give us about 12.7 million voters, which is absolutely right in the range of eligible voters based on population and age.
Therefore, it seems more likely to me that the voter registration totals are about right, with the majority of the unregistered voters being women, in a culture where their rights are not completely accepted yet.

Now, to be fair, there are various reports of registration difficulties, including multiple registrations. But that's the whole point of this post. Follow me here:

A summary of the difficulties can be found at this site. Here's a few select quotes (read the whole thing):
The Joint Electoral Management Body, a U.N.-Afghan government enterprise that is organizing and overseeing the election process, has estimated the number of eligible voters at 10.5 million.
When the registration period closed throughout much of the country in mid-August, nearly 10 million Afghans were registered, despite attacks on voter registration centers and staff that left 12 people dead.

But ... hang on ... why only 10.5 million eligible voters out of a population of 25 mil or more? If 50-55% of the population is old enough to vote - the voting age is 18 - then there should be between 12.50 and 13.75 million voters, per the math above.

There's additional confirmation available. Consider that the US itself now estimates Afghanistan's population at "28.5 million, half of whom are eligible to vote". I don't even need to pull out another envelope for that: that's over 14 million eligible voters.

So where does the UN - who are assisting the Karzai govt in this - come up with 10.5?
Estimates were based on recent data from the Central Statistics Office (CSO), and in a large and loosely governed country like Afghanistan, which has experienced dramatic flows of refugees in recent years, gathering accurate census data is extremely difficult.
OK, I can certainly appreciate the census difficulties, but still, how can there be 25-28 million people in a country and only 10.5 million eligible voters?

You know, there's bound to be some measure of attempted fraud (and some of that will likely succeed); it's their first try at this, after all. But my question still remains: why such (incredibly?) low estimates of eligible voters, estimates that only encourage or exaggerate reports of fraud, making it tougher to distinguish the real problems from the hyperbole? Surely that helps no one.

Something to keep in mind in the next week as the reports come in.