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The State of Sudan
Quick guide to Sudan's referendum
A quick look at the January 9 referendum that will give south Sudan a choice between unity or secession.
Last Modified: 06 Jan 2011 23:02 GMT
3.9 million out of five million eligible voters have registered [EPA]

The January 9 referendum is being held to give southern Sudanese the choice between unity with the north or secession.

Here is a quick guide to the process:

Who administers it?

How many have registered to vote?

Where will they vote?

How will they vote?

How long is the voting process?

When will the results be out?

Who were eligible to register?

What was the identification document required to register?

Who will not be voting?

Who administers it?

The vote is being administered by the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission [SSRC], an independent body, in co-operation with the government of Sudan and the government of Southern Sudan. It is headquartered in Khartoum, Sudan's capital.

The SSRC is holding the referendum through the State Referendum Committees in Northern Sudan, the Southern Sudan Referendum Bureau [SSRB] in the south, and the Out of Country Voting [OCV] programme for eight countries with large diasporas. These countries are Australia, Canada, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The SSRC is responsible for policy decisions and for the announcement of the final result.

The SSRB, based in Juba, the southern regional capital, is the one conducting the referendum in the south and will announce the preliminary results from the region.

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How many have registered to vote?

A total of 3.9 million people have registered out of about five million eligible, including an estimated 500,000 to two million who live outside Sudan.

The breakdown of the registrants is: southern Sudan, 3.7 million; northern states, 116,000; and the diaspora spread over the eight countries, 60,000.

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Where will they vote?

There are 2,794 voting centres in Sudan, with the majority [2,638] being in the south. The International Organisation for Migration will conduct the OCV in the eight other countries.

Voters will cast their votes in the same referendum centre where they registered and will have their registration cards punched to prevent it from being used again. They will also have to put their thumbprint against their name in the register.

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How will they vote?

A voter will receive a ballot paper with two options on it and will have to indicate preference by putting his/her thumbprint in the space next to either option. To help the illiterate, clasped hands is the symbol for unity and a raised palm represents secession. 

Voting will be done in secret behind a screen and then the folded ballot will be cast in a box.

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How long is the voting process?

The voting is a week-long process beginning on January 9 and ending on the 15th.

Chan Reec Madut, who heads the SSCB, did not rule out extending the number of days if needed. He said this was because movement of people in remote areas was still a problem.

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When will the results be out?

Madut said it was realistic to expect the results three weeks after the last polling date.

Once polling ends, polling staff will start counting the votes. When counting is completed in a referendum centre, results will be announced for that centre and a copy posted outside for public viewing.  

Results from all referendum centres will be aggregated by the SSRC and then the preliminary results will be declared.

The referendum will be considered valid if at least 60 per cent of the registered voters cast their votes.

If the above threshold is not reached, the referendum will be repeated under the same conditions within 60 days from the declaration of final results.

If the threshold is reached, the referendum result will be in favour of the option that obtains more than 50 per cent of the votes cast.

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Who were eligible to register?

In order to register, an applicant had to be at least 18 years of age on the day of registering and of a sound mind.

Eligibility was based on ethnic lines. The SSRC had classified voters into three categories.

The first category referred to voters who belonged to "one of the indigenous ethnic communities" residing in south Sudan on or before January 1, 1956 - when Sudan became independent. These individuals could register to vote anywhere in Sudan -  north or south - or in centres located in the eight designated countries abroad.

The second category of eligible voters is those who can trace their ancestry to an established south Sudan tribe even though they did not permanently reside in the south "before or since January 1956". These voters can only vote in the south.

The last category of eligible voters are those who do not belong  to any indigenous ethnic community in the south but whose parents or grandparents have been permanent residents of the south since  January 1, 1956.

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What was the identification document required to register?

Any written certificate or document issued by a Sudanese authority (even if expired) or a document issued by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees which could prove identity.

If no document was available, oral testimony from an "identifier" (community leader) present at a registration centre was accepted.

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Who will not be voting?

The Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005, which made this referendum possible, had stipulated the holding of another referendum in 2011.

It is the Abyei area referendum, in which the people of that region had to decide whether the area should retain its special administrative status in the North or become part of Bahr-el-Ghazal in southern Sudan. The Abyei area referendum was expected to be organised and conducted by a commission different from the SSRC. The two sides have not agreed on the composition of the referendum committee and remain at loggerheads over who has the right to vote in the region.

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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