Indonesian election ballot hand-count turns deadly

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Elections are grueling times when the eyes of a nation are on the outcome of a vote.

But in some countries, the outcome can be deadly.

I can’t verify the following story, but it comes from a usually reliable news outlet.

In the United States, there is always an ongoing debate on voting methods. Most of us of a certain age recall the infamous “hanging chads” from the 2000 presidential elections.

Today there is a push for internet voting while some areas will probably always rely on paper ballots.

But in Indonesia, let’s just say their technology is a tad bit behind most of the world. So in their national elections, every ballot is counted by hand.

So on April 17 of this year, Indonesians went to the ballot box in a national election, and, to put it mildly, turnout was large.

When the dust settled, 150 million voters had cast their ballots on five separate ballot proposals. That means there were 750 million ballots to be counted by hand.

No small task, to be sure.

In fact, the job was so stressful and so exhausting that 272 election staffers collapsed from fatigue-related illnesses and died.

And we think we have it tough.

Because the Indonesian election combined a presidential vote along with other regional and national votes, it was the largest single-day election in human history.

There are other examples in the less-developed world of exhaustion death from overwork.

Japan even has a word for it “karoshi” which translates to “overwork death.” Japanese officials reported that in 2017, there were 92 workers who died from long work hours.

And if it to be believed, the Chinese government reports that as many as 1,600 workers die each day from long work hours.

But back home, the story is not as foreign as you might think.

In his book, “Dying for a Paycheck,” a Stanford professor notes that overwork deaths in the United States is the fifth leading cause of death. And some human resource officials say that number is actually low.

It will be another month before the final Indonesian vote tally is official. As it now stands, the incumbent president there is ahead in the early tallies by almost 10 percent. But there is now talk of the ever-popular “voter fraud” in the election counting.

And you guessed it: if there is indeed “voter fraud,” the ballots must be recounted. By hand!

Let’s just hope this is not a prelude to our 2020 election.

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