Ballymoney Soroptimists welcomed speaker Kenneth Forbes OBE who spoke on his role as an observe of overseas elections.
Kenneth recounted his experiences in countries formerly belonging to the USSR – Ukraine, Georgia, Macedonia and Kyrgyzstan.
He outlined the process of being an observer which included the fact that each observer is paired with an observer from another country. Each pair are then allocated an interpreter and a driver. Each observation trip lasts eight days which includes time to explore the area and locate the polling stations, some of which are in very remote areas. They then visit a number of polling stations on the day of the election to observe proceedings. Elections always take place on a Sunday with polling stations open from 8am until 8pm.
Kenneth outlined differences between election procedures here and in these countries such as the fact that as there are no postal votes. If someone cannot go to the polling station, the election organisers will send an official to their homes so they can vote. Another difference is that the votes are counted at the polling station and a summary of those votes is then taken to a Collation Centre.
Kenneth commented on the vast difference in lifestyle between the wealthy and the poor. Whereas the poor still use horses and carts as normal transport, the really wealthy oligarchs who live in huge mansions drive very expensive cars.
He told the audience that meeting observers from all parts of the world and getting to know local drivers and interpreters made the job fascinating. President Pamela thanked Kenneth for his interesting talk which had given the Soroptimists an insight into a little known world.