In Sudan, a Smudge Could Affect Outcome of Vote

BY Larisa Epatko  December 30, 2010 at 9:00 AM EST

As Sudan prepares for a vote in January on whether the south will split from the north, one of the African nation’s challenges is how to inform an electorate with a high illiteracy rate on how to vote.

An estimated 4 million southern Sudanese have registered to vote in the Jan. 9 referendum on southern secession, in a country that has an adult illiteracy rate of 85 percent, said NewsHour special correspondent Jeffrey Kaye. He recently returned from a reporting trip to southern Sudan.

Coming up with appropriate symbols to represent unity or separation took some time. After rejecting symbols such as corn, animals and Arab garb, the final ballot now displays two hands clasped to signify unity and a hand held palm out to represent southern secession, said Kaye.

Even how the ballot is creased has become fodder for conspiracy theorists, he said. If the ballot is folded a certain way, the finger print indicating the voter’s choice could smear onto the opposite side, potentially disqualifying the vote. So education on the referendum now includes how to fold your ballot.

Coming soon on the NewsHour: Jeffrey Kaye reports on political and health hurdles in Sudan. Track international coverage on our World page and follow us on Twitter.