- Associated Press - Sunday, January 23, 2011

JUBA, Sudan (AP) — Preliminary results from Southern Sudan’s independence referendum indicate a landslide vote for secession, but turnout exceeded 100 percent in several areas, and a top election official said Sunday that some results were being quarantined.

Voter turnout exceeded 100 percent in 10 of the south’s 79 counties, according to an analysis done by the Associated Press using information on the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission’s website. In Jonglei state’s Bor County, the number of votes cast exceeded the number of registered voters by 720.

The Southern Sudan Referendum Commission reported on its website that with almost all of the votes counted, 98.8 percent of voters who cast ballots in the Jan. 9-15 independence referendum voted for secession.

Though that result is overwhelming, international officials have predicted for months that the south would vote to secede, and even officials from northern Sudan have acknowledged the south would vote to break away.

The number of over-votes in the 10 counties ranged from three to 720, the AP analysis found.

Justice Chan Reec Madut, who heads the southern bureau of the referendum commission, said results from stations that recorded more than 105 percent turnout would be quarantined. But he said that even if the commission throws out votes from counties where over-votes were recorded, “the trend is clear,” meaning that the south has voted for secession.

International observers of the referendum from the Arab League to the U.S.-based Carter Center generally have lauded the referendum process, calling it credible, up to international standards and representative of the will of the people.

Justice Madut said investigations into the quarantined results from 33 polling stations are under way. There were more than 2,600 polling stations across Sudan.

“There will be no problem, I think, (but) we want to do work that satisfies our own conscience,” Justice Madut said.

Southern Sudan is likely to become the world’s newest country in July if the referendum process stays on track. Such issues as oil rights, border demarcation and citizenship rights still have to be worked out between the north and south.

Final results from the referendum are scheduled to be announced in February.

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