An army of volunteers is triple-checking Turkey’s election results to weed out fraud

Crowdsourcing the democratic process one ballot at a time.

Mar 1, 2020, 2:02 am*

Tech

 

Kevin Collier

Keenly intent on ensuring that this year’s Turkish elections aren’t marred by the usual allegations of fraud, an army of some 10,000 volunteers are double-checking the government’s work.

The movement, spearheaded by a group called Oy ve Ötesi (Vote and Beyond), means to counter recent trends in Turkey, like a suspicious 2014 election-night power outage that officials blamed on on a cat walking into a transformer. Vote and Beyond has to move quickly, because election day was Sunday, and if they want to contest anything, they only have three days to do it.

Turkey’s elections are overseen by the country’s Supreme Electoral Council, known by the acronym YSK, which maintains a digital database that—in theory, at least—should include every eligible voter in the country. But the country’s official statistics agency, known as TurkStat, has previously said that YSK doesn’t account for all the voters it should. Nearly 1.8 million people are on TurkStat’s list but not YSK’s, according to the Turkish paper Today’s Zaman. Nearly 700,000 more didn’t make YSK’s list because of discrepancies in their address. (Turkey’s total population, for reference, is around 75 million.)

Moreover, ballots in Turkey take a dangerous, unsecure path before they’re tallied. First, after paper ballots are counted at local polls, they’re sent off to district election boards, which then input their results into YSK’s software, called SEÇS?S. Not only is SEÇS?S Java-based and vulnerable to hackers—a longstanding, heavy allegation levied at previous Turkish elections—it also puts an awful lot of trust that district-level boards are inputting accurate information.

So Vote and Beyond looks at the PDF files scanned by local polls for the election polls and counts them independently. “Then we also independently scan them, upload to a surveying server, log in, and manually enter what we read,” Efe Kerem Sozeri, who’s participating in the project, told the Daily Dot. (Full disclosure: He’s also a Daily Dot contributor.) A tally is only considered confirmed when three different people enter the same record.

In the end, if the goal is double- or triple-checking election results to ensure Turkey’s ruling AFK party doesn’t continue its dominance, it may be less necessary than it seems. Initial results from Sunday were a stunning defeat for AFK, their worst election in more than a decade. While President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s wasn’t up for election, his colleagues in the Turkish parliament lost their majority, largely to the surging democratic-socialist party HDP. Without a majority, Erdogan, perhaps known for his large-scale crackdowns on Internet freedoms, won’t be able to drastically expand the powers of his presidency.

Photo via FutUndBeidl/Flickr (CC BY 2.0) | Remix by Fernando Alfonso III

Share this article
*First Published: Jun 8, 2015, 7:24 pm