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Afghan voter registration marred

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Allegations of fraud are backed by evidence of irregularities in various provinces. In northern Baghlan Province, for instance, some students below the legal voting age claim that election officials issued them registration cards. "A lot of us took cards, even though we were underage," says area resident Habibullah Sherzai. Another resident, Kabiri, says, "I know many youths who got registration cards. Some of my friends even have two cards."

In southeastern Paktia Province, election officials claim that almost twice as many women have registered than men – despite extreme conservativism that largely prevents women from venturing outside. Some residents in the provincial capital, Gardez, claim that, in certain cases, one person registered on behalf of others, a violation.

"In Naswan High School, some people took bribes from the provincial council to register lists of women voters," says Mahera Ahmadzai, who heads Paktia's Women's Shura. She alleges that some of the women on these lists do not exist. Other Gardez residents claim that men are registering on behalf of multiple women and that underage girls are registering. Such registrations could be used by one individual to cast multiple votes.

IEC Deputy Chief Electoral Officer Zekra Barakzai says his organization has received similar reports from Paktia and elsewhere. "We are taking these incidents very seriously, and we are sending people to investigate," he says.

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