Iran elections 2013: The voting process

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Iranians around the world prepare to cast their votes for the 11th presidential elections on June 14. The voting process, however, has come under criticism following 2009’s allegations of a rigged presidential election.

Infographic: Guide: Iran's political system (Design by Farwa Rizwan / Al Arabiya English)
Infographic: Guide: Iran's political system (Design by Farwa Rizwan / Al Arabiya English)

In the elections, those eligible to vote must meet the following criteria; they must be a citizen of the country, must be 18 years or older and must be of sane mind.


“There is no segregation; every Iranian can cast their vote despite their gender, race or religion,” Dr. Ali Nourizadeh, Director of the Centre for Arab and Iranian Studies in London, told Al Arabiya English.

The protocols for voting are carefully laid out and advertised to the public in a series of televised programs which also explain how votes are tallied, explained Nourizadeh.

Despite clear assurances by the government that the voting process is clear and just, there are some Iranians who do not trust the system.

Those Iranians who understand the voting system, “don’t trust the system,” Nourizadeh told Al Arabiya English.

“They believe the Guardian Council are the ones who count the vote and make the decision.”

The voting process

This year, those who choose to cast their vote from Iran’s eligible population of more than 50 million, will have to decide between six candidates.

The process is seemingly well-organized as “[Iranians] are issued an area where they’re going to vote and are issued an electoral card when they register their name, their national number and [all] their details to cast their vote,” Nourizadeh stated.

However, some have found a way to thwart the system.

According to Nourizadeh, he knows a “person that casted his vote nine times last year, in order to show it’s possible to vote more than once in nine different areas.”

This seems to invalidate the official procedure that entails once a voter drops their ballot into the box his or her voter’s ID card is stamped, to prevent him or her from casting a vote again, Iran’s View a non-governmental and independent website reported.

Poll stations

Iranians will be able to cast their votes in designated areas by presenting their official national identity card with the holders photograph, a unique number and a thumbprint.

“Voters are provided with special forms [voter ID card] for the elections in their location where they place their cards in a sealed box collected by the Interior Ministry,” Mahshid Rahimi, a Masters student in Tehran University and supporter of the reformist movement told Al Arabiya English.

Everybody is given a “private quarter” where they can write the name of their favorable candidate and place it in the box, Nourizadeh added.

Nourizadeh explains that every poll station differs and uses manual and electronic methods to tally votes.

“What’s happening now is that there is a sort of combination. So the first counting will be done electronically, and then there is checking done by the observers and inspectors.”

After ballots are submitted under the observation of an inspector, the votes are counted there and then the boxes are sealed and sent electronically and physically to Iran’s Interior Ministry.

“The boxes are opened in the presence of supposed representatives of the candidates and the votes are then counted,” Nourizadeh said.

Rural and urban voting

According to Press TV, over 66,000 polling stations have been set up across the country.

In rural areas votes are counted by the governors of each town and sent to capital along with the ballots.

“In rural areas and small towns everything is [possible], you can spend money to bring voters or have the governors on your side,” Nourizadeh added, referring to allegations of corruption in the rural voting process.

According to the director, the majority of rural areas depend on manually counted votes.

Voting abroad

On Sunday, the interior minister announced 285 polling stations will be available for Iranians living outside the country, Iran Daily reported.

Iranians can cast their votes at “all Iranian consulate and embassies around the world,” Nourizadeh said.

Iranian Atena Sadegh, compliance analyst for the G20 Research Group in Canada, told Al Arabiya English that in 2009 buses drove Iranians to the embassy in Ottawa to cast their vote.

“With the proof of my original birth-certificate, I was able to cast my vote,” she said.

“They marked that I had cast my vote by subsequently having me put my thumb print in my birth-certificate. The whole process took about seven hours,” she added.

However, on September 7, 2012 Canada ended its diplomatic ties with Iran, and expelled Iranian diplomats from the country.

Nourizadeh explained that in countries where no embassy or consulate is available “like in London, [Iranians] can cast their vote at an Islamic center” or other designated locations.

The votes are counted locally and then sent to Tehran.

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