Fuzzy Math / শুভঙ্করের ফাঁকি

January 4, 2009
By

“It’s unbelievable that nearly 90 percent votes were cast in Monday’s polls, and that means a voter needed only 55 seconds to cast ballot.” – BNP office secretary Rizvi Ahmed

Recently I was listening to a conversation that went something like this:

1. There are 35,000 polling stations in Bangladesh
2. There are 81 million voters, 87% of which, or a total of 70 million votes were cast
3. The polling stations were open for 8 hours = 480 minutes
(all numbers are approximate)

Hence, there were an average of 2000 votes (70 million / 35000) cast per polling center in 480 minutes,
which means each voter had (480 x 60) /2000 = 14 seconds per vote.

So the theory being proposed was: massive fraud and ballot-box stuffing, since 14 seconds to cast each vote is absurd.

Alas, the calculations are correct, but the data is wrong, because one polling center does not equate to only one polling booth. According to the Election Commission, there were 177107 polling booths, and that changes the calculation to:

Average votes cast per polling booth = 70 million / 177101 = 395 votes. Time to cast each vote = (480 x 60) / 395 = 72 seconds

72 seconds is much better than 14 seconds or 55 seconds per vote, right?

Let’s take a look at the 2001 election. According to the Election Commission there were 56185707 votes cast in 149288 polling booths (29,978 polling stations). Using the same calculations:

Average votes cast per polling booth = 56185707 / 149288 = 376 votes. Time to cast each vote = (480 x 60) / 376 = 76 seconds

4 seconds per vote less time required in 2008 compared to 2001 may seem like it is significant. But consider this: in 2001, a voter would have to go to the polling officer, and give his name and father’s name. Then his record would be pulled up from a printed list, his address and age would be asked and his answers would be verified, then he would be handed a ballot paper and seal.

This time, a voter went to vote with a laminated ID card with an unique serial number. This number would be compared against the printed list. This is much faster than looking up by name, even manually, and there is no scope for confusion between Abdul Alim, son of Abdul Halim and Adbul Alim, son of Azizul Alim, etc.

Then the voter’s photo and other biographical data would be compared on the voter list and photo ID, and he would be handed a ballot.

The saving in time for using the photo ID would easily exceed 4 seconds per voter when compared with the time required in 2001 to verify the identity of each voter.

Our conclusion: a 2008 voter had more time available to cast the vote than a voter in 2001. So people looking for a conspiracy using fuzzy math should look at the 2001 vote first.

Update: Prothom Alo is reporting that Khaleza Zia’s Bogra-6 and Bogra-7 seats saw voter turnouts of 87.98% and 89.10% respectively. The two seats that Jamat won saw 86.59% (Cox’s Bazar-2) and 88.10% (Chittagong-14) turnouts.

Various BNP leaders, and Jamaat’s Amir Motiur Rahman Nizami has asked for an investigation of all the seats where 80% or more votes were cast. Of the 32 seats that BNP and Jamaat won, 26 saw turnouts of 80% or more, including the 4 listed above. Does this mean BNP and Jamaat are now questioning the validity of Khaleza Zia’s two wins, along with 24 others, of their own?

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J @ Shada Kalo [http://shadakalo.blogspot.com] writes using a pseudonym and is best known for exposing government, military, corporate foul plays through whistle-blowing investigative reports.

[Read posts by J @ Shada Kalo]

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