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Afghanistan Dispatch

Donkeys Deliver The Vote To Rural Afghanistan

Photos By David Gilkey

At first glance, there's something comical about a man chasing a runaway donkey with a country's presidential ballots on its back. But actually, that man and donkey are responsible for delivering the vote to some of the most remote regions of Afghanistan for this Thursday's election — regions only accessible by donkey that could very easily be neglected and, until now, pretty much have been.

For this year's election, Afghanistan's second democratic election, the United Nations and the Afghan Independent Election Commission have mapped out ballot deliveries by helicopter, truck and donkey to ensure rural citizens the right to vote. NPR staff photographer David Gilkey joined election officials in the trek to deliver voting materials in the Badakhshan province in northern Afghanistan.

Despite his remote location and patchy reception, we were able to get Gilkey on the phone for a few minutes to ask him about this experience. After embedding with Marines and dodging constant fire in southern Afghanistan, and after covering the presidential campaign, Gilkey seemed grateful to see this side of the election — a more positive side. "It gives you a whole new appreciation for our right to vote," says Gilkey. "We can't even get in the car and drive a half a mile to the elementary school to vote. But these people, don't ask me how — they don't have phones, power or water — will walk for two days to vote."

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To learn more about the Afghanistan election, and to view more of Gilkey's photographs, check out our Afghanistan hub page.

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