Tehran Butterflies

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(I’m posting this for Joe Klein, who emails it in from Tehran:)

I’ve just returned from a day of poll-watching in various Tehran neighborhoods. The lines are long…but I’m worried that the votes might not be counted correctly. In fact, we may be headed for a government-rigged Palm Beach County-style election controversy. Here’s the problem:

The candidates are listed by name and by number…and also by code. You vote by writing down the candidate’s name and then his…what? Number…or code? No one is quite sure. The leading reformer, Mir-Hussein Moussavi, has the number 4 and the code 777. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has the number 1 and the code 444. So the question arises: If you vote for Moussavi and list his number as 4…have you actually voted for Ahmadinejad? And why on earth have they devised such a complicated ballot in the first place?

A representative of the Guardian’s Council, which is monitoring the polling stations, told me at the Hossein Ershad Mosque in North Tehran that none of this mattered. “Only the name on the ballot matters,” she said.

Let’s hope so.