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FiecareVot: Preliminary Conclusions of the Observation Mission for the 6-7 October Referendum on Redefining the Notion of Family in the Constitution of Romania

FiecareVot (EveryVote) Coalition (FVC) observed the constitutional referendum organized by the Romanian Government on 6th and 7th October 2018 aiming to redefine the notion of family in the national constitution.

FVC deployed 841 independent observers, both in Romania and abroad. During the 2 days of voting, hundreds of irregularities were identified and reported through the call center 0800 080 200, Code4Romania’s Monitorizare Vot smartphone application and www.votcorect.ro web platform. FVC covered 1800 polling stations, approximately 10% of the total 18662 number of polling stations in the country and 387 abroad. This report intends to present the main types of irregularities.

FVC concludes that the irregularities observed during the referendum days, some of which appear to be systemic, did not affect the overall organizing process overall and the results. The irregularities were related to massive vote on supplementary lists without the possibility to verify against potential multiple voting, poor organization inside the polling stations, sealing procedures, campaigning and access of observers. The main concern relates to the legal framework for the referenda, indicating a lack of political will for the organization of a correct referendum.

FVC hopes that the responsible institutions will exercise their duties and responsibilities in order to ensure the rule of law and that the democratic exercise of voting in Romania is respected and improved where possible.

Most of the irregularities were solved at the level of the polling stations (BESV) or with the support of the county electoral bureaus (BEJ), the Central Electoral Bureau (BEC) or the Permanent Electoral Authority (AEP). A criminal complaint was filed over suspicions of multiple voting (Giurgiu County), while other complaints referred to suspicions related to broken or improperly applied seals (Timis, Teleorman, Constanța counties and Bucharest) and an incident that took place in Săbiesti (Dâmboviţa county), where all four of the car tires of an accredited journalist have been slashed.

FVC concludes that the irregularities observed during the referendum days, some of which appear to be systemic, did not significantly affect the overall organizing process and the results.

The main concern relates to the legal framework for the referenda. Expert Forum, one of the member organizations of FCV has signalled previously that there are serious problems with this legislation. Many procedures are not clear, and, most significantly, it does not provide for the use of the electronic system for the verification of voters and prevention of multiple voting (SIMPV). FVC asked the Prime Minister Viorica Dancila and her government to introduce SIMPV through emergency ordinance. The government’s decision to not address the matter shows a lack of political will for the organization of a correct referendum.

The main findings related to the organization and irregularities are the following:

  • Massive vote on supplementary lists without the possibility to verify against potential multiple voting: FVC identified a high number of polling stations where the vote was expressed predominantly on supplementary lists – see here the interactive map of the votes. Although in some situations this is justifiable, as the polling stations are close to hospitals, prisons or monasteries, in other cases these percentages have no obvious explanation. The lack of SIMPV generated situations where the presidents of the BESV had suspicions of multiple voting which they could not verify (as would be the case for regular elections).
  • Poor organization: the absence of several BESV presidents led to the disruption of the voting process as the polling stations did not open in time. As shown by the monitoring of the procedures in the polling stations, the training sessions for the presidents of the BESV can be improved.
  • Sealing procedures: In most cases seals are strips of paper over which the control stamp and the signature of the president are applied – see example here. Observers have reported situations where the paper had been glued with duct tape, which could be easily dismantled. Moreover, in some polling stations, the sealing of materials on the evening of 6 October did not follow the procedural steps. This raises concerns about the correctness of the referendum in those polling stations.
  • The massive continuation of the electoral campaign on the days of the referendum, through the display, distribution of propaganda materials and the call to vote, with the indication of the specific option: FVC have reported at least ten cases to the BEJ or district offices. In some situations, the materials were removed with great delay or not at all. FVC also received complaints from observers and citizens stating that the clerical personnel and local government officials (mayors, vice-mayors, councillors, etc.) were actively campaigning for the Yes during the two-day voting, especially on the second day .
  • The access of the observers to 22 polling stations was hindered by bureaucratic barriers (not specified in the legislation) and abusive behaviour from the BESV presidents. The BEC issued an order requesting the presidents of the BEV not to demand any accreditation documents not required by law. Moreover, FVC observed that representatives of several NGOs supporting the YES side were involved in the management of the polling stations, supporting the members of the BESV and directing citizens in a biased manner.

We appreciate the collaboration of the electoral administration bodies at the county and national level that showed openness and supported FVC in solving most of the irregularities described above.

The press releases issued during the two days of the referendum can be found at www.votcorect.ro/comunicate-referendum

FiecareVot is an initiative started by Geeks for Democracy Citizens Group and Expert Forum, Funky Citizens, Forum Apulum, Civic Resources Center, Code 4 Romania and Techsoup.

 

The project Civic Mobilization Project for Fair Referendum is co-funded by the Civil Society Development Foundation.


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