In response to ongoing violence and concerns over voter fraud, the IEC has closed 748 polling centers (10%) across the country. Of these, 352 cancelled polling centers were announced on Sunday. Whether or not this is the right move, it has real impact on the ability of Afghan voters to participate in their democracy. We’ve created a map that shows the most recently closed polling places and highlights districts left with zero or one polling center.
According to Afghanistan’s Central Statistics Organization, Baghran District in Hilmand Province has a population of 79,300 people. Baghran District was designated 19 polling centers for 2009 elections. This year there are none.
Residents of Baghran have a few options. Voters can trek over mountains to the East or West to find small polling centers that can accommodate no more 600 male voters and 600 female voters. These polling centers are in a different province. Baghran residents who chose to vote there will be permitted to vote for President only, not for Provincial Council. Baghran voters’ best bet is to travel two hours South through the valley to the town of Musa Qala. In Musa Qala they will find three polling stations equipped to handle up to 10,800 voters.
Dropped polling centers
Baghran is not alone. Twelve districts have zero or one polling center. Several as a result of the closings announced Sunday. A week ago today, Ghazni District (population 35,500) in Giro Province had been allocated 18 polling centers. These centers would have been capable of processing up to 28,800 voters. On Sunday, the IEC cancelled 17 of these polling centers, leaving just one center capable of processing up to 2,400 voters. Voters in Mandol Province in Nuristan (pop. 19,200) lost all seven of their polling centers and many others nearby.
The river valley of Northern Zabul is home to 68,500 people. Only two polling centers survived Sunday’s closings.