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Burundi’s elections, from inside the polls

Here’s an audio-visual look at Burundi’s presidential poll, from inside one rural voting station, which I produced for my Pulitzer Center project “Beyond Peace Deals.” If I had had the luxuries of the US, like great bandwidth and the absence of grenades going off behind one's hotel the night of a presidential election, this would have been a zippy little bit of deadline multimedia. I also wouldn't have to host it on YouTube, and I could get rid of some of the graininess in the final cut. But a journalist's life is all about adaptation...

If nothing else, watch and listen for the hip election jingle...

And I add gratefully that this audio slideshow was produced with the support of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

7 Responses to “Burundi’s elections, from inside the polls” Leave a reply ›

  • This comment is pretty belated... But don't you think that having only one voting card rather than the bureau de vote staff having to pull of twelve cards, and then the voter fumbling around with 12 cards, not to mention a little bit more experience on the part of the staff, may have sped things up a bit, may have contributed quite a bit to the shorter lines, on top of reduced turnout. Yes, turnout was reduced, but the comment about the line being so many times shorter than the last time seems to insinuate that there were that many fewer voters than the previous round, when the actual numbers on the reduced turnout weren't quite as dramatic as that particular image would seem to imply.

    (If this indeed is the right piece - I can't get it to load right now, so I'm commenting from memory, having watched it a while back, but only thinking to comment now, after seeing it linked from another piece)

    • Yolanda, I think you name a very many hypotheticals, and I can't imagine deciding what having one voter card, or 12 voter cards, or more experience, would have contributed. Though I think it's a herring to blame long lines on an inexperienced voter staff, esp. when they didn't differ that much from May to June. As for the length of the line -- at 6 am, before polls opened, it can't be attributed in my estimation to a convoluted poll. There were also questions about the 'official' voter turnout which I can't corroborate but understand; ultimately, I think that evaluating the presidential vote by the turnout is probably not the right metric and is certainly political -- although the political process itself obviously failed before the polls... I'll leave it there.

  • i agree with your comment to my comment entirely. i just also wanted to make the point that the framing the observation that the line was so much shorter as being somehow proportionate to the decrease in voter turnout is also bit hypothetical.

    the other reason that the line could have been shorter (yes, another hypothetical - but aren't comments sections allowed a large dose of hypothetical?) is that the first time around a lot of the polls opened late - and people decided that it wasn't worth it to be there at 6 waiting around when the polls wouldn't be open yet...

    • Of course they're allowed to be hypothetical. They can be anything you like (mostly). But I didn't hear anything like that at the polls themselves. Doesn't mean people weren't thinking it, but no one articulated it to me, including elections workers, who would probably be likely to do so...

    • One last thought: I think it's worth making a stand for storytelling or narrative journalism here... It's easy to tell what looks like a nice story without much reporting to back it up; it's much more time consuming, and more difficult, to actually report before you understand the story, and then turn all that information you gathered into a story.

      Narrowly, what I'm saying is that my framing observation is not a hypothetical; it's based on a lot of reporting (throughout the day, about voter turnout, all day, in lots of places...). But more broadly, and more importantly, what I'm saying is that good storytelling journalism manages to tell a story about the facts it has gathered, not simply dump the facts it has gathered onto the audience. It's my preferred kind of journalism, for a whole host of reasons, and there's a lot of people waaaaay better at it than I -- but they're also reporting out the possibilities (hypotheticals) first and, when they don't have facts to support them, dismissing them.

      Maybe we need t-shirts made? "Frame it with your facts"?

      • hahaha. if you get t-shirts i'll buy one - if the writing is reversed so that i can see it in a mirror as a reminder to myself more than anyone else.

        I guess that's the wonderful part about just being a musing commenter and not a journalist - not having to frame everything with facts =)

        and just because i can, another hypothetical - maybe the voters themselves having more experience also sped things up a bit. the whole cards-envelopes thing did seem a bit confusing to some people the first time around. (not as bad as the colline elections, where you had to hand-write three names, but that's another panier de crabes.)

        • I watched inside polls, too, and I could definitely see how with 12 ballot papers it would have been maddening... But the other thing to keep in mind is that I saw short lines at 6 am -- when the polls opened. So how fast the vote was going didn't impact that starting moment. (And the series of photos is in fact of the line when the poll opened, which happened right after the commission staff sealed the ballot box and showed everyone that it wasn't stuffed, etc. Nice and transparent.) The short line stuck out to election workers because the lines had been so very long when the polls opened in May. That there weren't lines at, say, noon could be due to a whole slew of other things, including how fast the voting goes, etc.

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