Voters list: still discrepancies
By Messenger Staff
Wednesday, March 17The voters lists have been a matter of controversy at every election since Georgia regained its independence in the early nineties of the last century. They have been subject to manipulation by the authorities during both the Shevardnadze and Rose Revolution regimes. Every opposition has complained that the lists have been artificially inflated with fictitious and non-resident voters in order to rig the elections.
Today's opposition once again says that the voters lists do not reflect reality. They were around 2.5 million qualified voters at the election in 2003 but now the authorities claim there are 1 million more. As Georgia has a negative demographic this figure has aroused considerable controversy and speculation. The administration assures the country and our foreign friends that there are only minor faults in the lists which can be easily corrected, encouraging opposition parties to submit any errors they have recorded to the Central Elections Commission to give it time to improve the situation. This of course sounds perfect, but opposition representatives complain that very few of the errors they have identified have been corrected.
The voters list submitted to the CEC by the National Agency of Civil Registry on February 2 contained 3,677,795 voters. The first check revealed that over 100,000 people on the list should not have been there. Officials say that there should be around 3.5 million voters, as statistically voters make up 75% of the population in any country with universal suffrage. However if 3.5 million is 75% of the population of Georgia this means around 5 million people are living here, an obviously absurd assertion as the 2002 census stated that 4.3 million people live here. Of these about 1 million will still be under the age of 18, and therefore unable to vote, so there should be no more than 3.3 million voters in Georgia. The country simply cannot have acquired an extra 1 million voters since the last elections in 2003. In addition many have left the country.
Checking and amending voters' lists should be the major activity of the CEC, which should do this continually whether or not there is an election on. Unfortunately this was not done and now the opposition parties are checking the list at the last moment. Of course it is democratic to allow the opposition to check the lists but time pressure and bureaucracy will prevent most of the errors they identify from being corrected before the polls. For example, the opposition parties have detected many instances of non-existent residents being registered to vote at certain addresses without the knowledge of the owners of those properties. In order to remove these from the list the owners of the property must make a written application to this effect, despite the fact that the same owners did not give their written consent to the extra people being registered at that address to begin with. Of course such discrepancies would not have occurred if the present regime had sought to eradicate them, but unfortunately this proved not to be the case.
When the elections are held the administration will say that it has conducted free and fair elections because the lists were checked by the opposition, even though it is impossible for the errors identified by this checking to be rectified in time. Nevertheless the opposition parties are still working hard to try and improve the lists. The Republicans claim to have found three major violations: some voters have been registered at several different addresses, multiple non-resident voters have been registered at particular addresses and many voters have been registered at specific addresses within very recent times, as if brought in for the purpose. Few of these violations can be corrected before the final list must be published. Therefore the checking of the voters lists will create even more controversy than leaving it as it was would have done, which also plays into the hands of those who do not want people interested in questioning them.