#Elections2018: User reports about electoral fraud teyit.org received on the election day

Teyit received numerous reports about the elections during the period that followed the snap vote announcement. On the election day, reports were by and large concerned with the alleged fraud cases at polling stations. Claims generally included information regarding ballot stuffing, physical and psychological intimidation of observers, preventing observers from attending the elections at polling stations, and vote rigging.

Tips about irregularities amounted to 320 on June 24th

On the election day of June 24, a total of 367 reports about 91 unique claims were received by teyit.org, 320 of which included claims specifically concerning electoral fraud.

From the announcement of snap elections on April 18th until July 4th, a total of 1,460 reports were submitted by our users regarding 315 unique claims about elections. Whereas between April 18th and June 5th, 30 unique reports were received each day on average. The number of reports steadily increased during this period, and it tripled on the election day. Considering the average number of reports received by teyit.org each day, it could be argued that our followers were suspicious of a large part of the information they found online on the election day and felt the need for verification.

Five claims with the highest number of reports about electoral fraud on the election day;

The fraud claims map

Below map illustrates the locations of the reports about fraud claims and where election fraud was thought to be most likely taking place. It should, however, be underlined that a large part of these claims was not verifiable due to lack of available evidence. The claims and cities found on the map, therefore, are only limited with reports submitted by our users.

 

MAP: Electoral fraud claims map based on user reports received on the election day.

*Reports about claims that were thought to take place in multiple cities around Turkey or the ones that did not mention a specific city in Turkey, were not included in this map.

Upon comparing our fraud claim map with the below map from Oy ve Otesi (Oy ve Otesi is an NGO that aims to ensure electoral transparency by observing vote count across Turkey with its volunteer network.), which illustrates and color-codes the level of need for electoral observers in each city prior to elections, it is possible to find a match between the emphasized locations in both maps, which suggest that there indeed were doubts about electoral security in the very same areas.

MAP: Turkey Priority Map

Illustrates the areas and districts where voluntary electoral observers are most needed, based on the data collected during previous elections. The map is color-coded to show the level of necessity for each area and district. The districts that lack any previous data, and therefore have a high need for observers, are coded with red, symbolizing the urgent need for observers.

Furthermore, the cities from where Oy ve Otesi fraud hotline received the highest number of calls were Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir, followed by Sanliurfa and Diyarbakir.

Which claims of fraud were reported?

Among the reports received by teyit.org, ballot stuffing stands out as the most frequent claim of electoral irregularity. Another prominent topic is the violence and insecurity that surrounded several polling stations. The violence faced by the electoral observers, multiple armed incidents at polling stations, and allegations of casualties cast the shadow over the democratic nature of the elections.

Word cloud generated by claims and reports of electoral fraud received by teyit.org.

The preliminary report published by Oy ve Otesi in regards to problems faced by their electoral observer network shows that there were similarities and common themes. Among the problems identified by Oy ve Otesi are:

  • Prevention of observers to enter polling stations and/or classes where ballot boxes were located
  •  Party representatives and observers getting removed out of classes and polling stations during the vote count.
  • Allowing voters to vote without proper identification that led to carousel voting, misplaced voting at the wrong ballot box and/or misplaced signatures.
  • The insufficient number of observers or complete lack of observers in some cases.

Although most of the reports are largely condensed in some areas in Turkey, it is hard to claim that there was a large-scale discrepancy or fraud across the country.

The comparison of the official reports of Oy ve Otesi observers and the data from the High Electoral Board leads to the following conclusions:

For the presidential elections, there have been identified discrepancies in 194 ballot boxes and in the distribution of 7,042 votes in total. The proportion of these votes to the overall number of valid votes is around 0.015%. For the parliamentary elections, discrepancies were detected in 1,110 boxes, and in the distribution of 80,019 votes, which is estimated to affect 0.16% of all valid votes.

Despite being well intended, the attempt of social media users to act against fraud and the information they shared across social media platforms led many individuals to perceive the election results as unfair. These views were further consolidated by the statements of the main opposition party CHP’s high-ranking representatives regarding the state-run Anadolu News Agency’s manipulation of election results. The failure of the opposition’s attempt to prevent fraud, Adil Secim Platformu, also added to the fire. Adil Secim Platformu was an external platform endorsed by all of the opposition parties, for monitoring the election results and possible electoral fraud, which crashed on the election night right after the beginning of the vote count, and never came back online. In the end, the allegations of electoral fraud neither were validated nor debunked.

teyit.org’s failure to verify the claims received on the election day, such as the video footage that allegedly shows ballot stuffing in Erzurum’s Haci Halil district, rely on the same reasons. The claim was that several individuals were casting numerous votes for Erdogan and the governing AK Party.

After receiving 54 unique reports about this claim, teyit.org’s editors contacted different party representatives and was told that there were objections filed for the mentioned ballot box, and that the election at this ballot was official cancelled with a court ruling. Despite the claims that court ruling was officially sent to several parties, teyit.org editors could not manage to verify neither the ruling, nor the existence of such a document. While an MP from one of the opposition parties stated that he never received the document, another one indicated that due to the extraordinary circumstances he would not be able to forward the alleged document to teyit.org (he was at a funeral at the time). Teyit.org’s attempts for reaching out to other MP’s and representatives from different parties unfortunately remained futile.

Once the results were announced, upon taking a look at the ballot boxes and objections, it became clear that the ballot box was not cancelled, and no complaints or objections were filed. Moreover, High Electoral Board officials stated that there were no legal means for cancelling a ballot box in such manner.

Consequently, even if there actually was electoral fraud, political parties and institutions did not take the necessary steps. At times like this, representatives’ and institutions’ failing to make explanatory statements, and refusing to provide journalists with the sources they need, only make it more difficult for the public to get informed. Moreover, such failures in “crisis management” can affect the distrust of the individuals, and dangerously weaken citizens’ belief in democracy and institutions.

Conspiracy theories were also at the forefronts

The reports received by teyit.org on the election day also included several conspiracy theories. The prevalence of such theories could be attributed to the distrust felt towards the electoral process. The discrepancy between the democratic ideals and the reality of Turkish politics lead voters to search for irregularities that would help them rationalize the results and to consider conspiracy theories as probable events. The most popular conspiracy theory during the election day was the main opposition candidate’s alleged tweet: “Folks there are things you don’t know about. The guy threatens me with the army and soldiers behind him. The only solution for us is to put up a fight against it”.

-What do you mean in this message you posted and then immediately deleted Mr. Ince??? 🙂

       “Folks there are things you don’t know about. The guy threatens me with the army and soldiers behind him. The only solution for us is to put up a fight against it”

The allegations that surfaced on the election day regarding Muharrem Ince mostly included claims of him being kidnapped, taken the hostage, and being kept at the presidential palace together with his wife. This claim was reported to teyit.org 59 times in total. Although Muharrem Ince himself denied these allegations, teyit.org continued to receive reports from users.

Verifying a tweet that was deleted right afterward is one of the most difficult tasks for fact-checking platforms. Proving something that did not take place and providing supporting evidence for it could evidently be tricky at times. However, creating a fake account or photoshopping an image to manipulate its content is quite easy from a comparative perspective. Considering how unlikely it is for a tweet to get favorited more than 69 thousand times and to receive 31 thousand replies in around a minute and adding the fact that Ince’s previous tweets had never received such a high rate of interaction, there are enough reasons to become suspicious of the alleged tweet. Moreover, since the presidential candidate Ince has a professional and quite successful PR team managing his social media presence, it could be presumed that they would not make grammatical errors in their posts on such an important night.

Other conspiracy theories included the news about a group of seven individuals that resigned from their posts at the High Electoral Board (17 reports) and scented ink usage at several electoral regions (16 reports).

Aside from the electoral fraud and conspiracy theories, the video footage of armed crowds in Istanbul, who were celebrating election results with firing weapons into the air, was among the most reported social media content of the election night, with 24 unique reports received from teyit.org users. This claim was investigated by teyit.org and verified.

To sum up, teyit.org users were suspicious about the content of electoral fraud they came across on social media, which got them worried and led them to take action by demanding verification. The cities where alleged fraud most frequently took place were Sanliurfa, Erzurum, Diyarbakir, Mus, and Istanbul. It could be argued that fraud allegations affected distrust in citizens, and this, in turn, led people to embrace conspiracy theories, especially during the vote count procedure.

Sources:

Dubito, Tableau Public

Translation:

Beril Bulat

Sources:

Dubito, Tableau Public

Translation:

Beril Bulat