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Monitoring report

Observation report of the EU Elections and referendum on justice, 26 May 2019 – FiecareVot

FiecareVot Coalition has observed the EU elections and 26th of May referendum with more than 1200 observers, in polling stations organized in Romania and abroad. The report includes information obtained from 627 polling stations for the opening procedure, 2547 polling stations for the voting day and 577 polling stations for the closing and vote counting.

On Saturday and Sunday, the call centre 0800 080 200 organized by Expert Forum and Funky Citizens recorded 1512 calls from observers and voters. The online platform www.votcorect.ro provided explanations of voting procedures and answered frequently asked questions, registered 246,000 visits during the 90 days before the vote, and on the day of voting over 113,000 unique visitors. Throughout the electoral period, 1243 complaints were registered on the www.votcorect.ro page. The information provided by the observers was centralized through the Monitorizare Vot smartphone application developed by Code for Romania.

The elections and referendum took place in a competitive environment and with respect for the fundamental rights of the voters. Many of the issues identified during the election monitoring were caused by frequent legislative and procedural changes that were introduced right before the elections. This situation generated confusion for both voters and members of the electoral administration.

The errors that occurred during election day, as well as the recording and centralization of the results, indicate the rather poor training and lack of attention given by those involved in the electoral process, rather than attempts to fraud the elections. However, their occurrence may lead to loss of credibility in the electoral process, and it increases public mistrust in the fairness of elections.

One factor that could have influenced the result of the elections was the limiting procedure regarding the closing of the polling stations. As such, many voters – most of them abroad – that were waiting at 21:00 to cast their vote could not do so. We consider that such legislative and practical barriers can affect the competitiveness and fairness of electoral processes.

The main conclusions and irregularities that occurred on the voting day

Opening of the polling station

  • The procedure for opening the polling station was rated as good or very good in 95% of the observed polling stations.
  • Most of the irregularities reported are related to the lack of knowledge of legal regulations or lack of compliance in following the opening procedures (for example, writing the number of voters or stamps in the protocols).

Election Day

The process was transparent in most of the stations while the secret of the vote was respected in most of the polling stations observed. Observers were able to monitor the electoral process in almost all polling stations. In Ghimpaţi, Giurgiu an accredited observer was assaulted, the police were notified as a result of this.

The main problems that occurred in the polling stations in the country:

  • Poor organisation and lack of electoral materials
  • Inappropriate electoral materials (transparent tape seals, ballot boxes and voting booths made of improper materials)
  • Lack of sufficient training of lower level electoral administration, as well as complex and unstable legal framework
  • Failure of the tablet operator to properly inform the voter of his/her options, including attempts to deter voters from voting at the referendum
  • Pressures of local authorities for not voting for the referendum
  • Unclear aspects of voting procedures. One such example is the voting with CRDS passports in the country (citizens with passports that only contains the domicile outside the country) – some presidents did not allow voters to cast the vote, while others accepted this type of document to vote
  • Crowded polling stations
  • Isolated malfunctions of SIMPV, for example, some tablets stopped working for a while or had scanning problems. In some cases, citizens with identity documents issued in Braşov County were identified as citizens residing outside of the country. These incidents did not jeopardize the organisation of the elections or the referendum as a whole, even though in the some polling stations the process was slowed down.
  • Reduced accessibility for people with disabilities. The Permanent Electoral Authority introduced a provision under OUG 29/2019 that mayors are obliged to ensure accessibility in the polling stations. However, according to the data provided by our observers, 34% of the polling stations monitored were not accessible.

 

Voting abroad

  • A significant number of people waiting in line to vote (including at 9 PM) in the UK, Ireland, Italy, Germany, France etc.
  • Lack of legal framework for prolonging the voting period
  • Lack of flexible provisions regarding the polling station space. The Central Electoral Bureau (BEC) interpreted the area of the station strictly within the meaning of the law, without allowing the presidents of the polling stations to extend it as to facilitate the vote of as many people as possible
  • Lack of electoral materials – ballot boxes, stamps

Most ballot papers were requested by Brussels 1 and 2 stations (10,000 voting ballots requested and 9975 received) along with 6 stamps. Several UK polling stations have requested 8,000 ballots (London 1 and 2, London Brent, Stratford, Harrow, Battersea, Barking, Slough) and seven stamps. In Germany, for all 25 stations, 4,000 ballots and six stamps were requested per polling stations. In Italy, the embassies requested between 3000 and 4500 and 4-6 stamps. More were requested in Rome and Ladispoli, 4500 each. In Spain, the embassies in Sevilla, Lepe, Palos de Frontera, Malaga and Almendralejo received 5,000 bulletins and six stamps each. In the three stations of Madrid, 4,000 ballots and six stamps were received. Considering that for the stations in Romania, which may have an average of 2,000 voters, 5 stamps are recommended, it is obvious that if six were allocated for 4-5000 voters, the process would be slowed down. Having this in mind, the number of ballots and stamps is disproportionate.

 You can see the full list of the requests made by the embassies and the materials approved for each polling station by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MAE) here. See the full details on organization of elections abroad here –  MAE

 

  • The lack of members of the electoral bureaus and the lack of responsibility of competitors in designating representatives in the electoral bureaus. MAE confirmed in response to a request made by EFOR that it does not have any information on the sanctioning of the members in the electoral bureaus for failure to participate to the organizations of the polling station during the day of the elections
  • The lack of facilities for polling stations (including access for disabled persons) and services for voters waiting in line

The closing process of the polling stations

  • Only 85% of the responses given by the observers in regards to the closing process were positive. At 9 PM, in 19% of the stations observed there were still voters waiting in line.
  • The most common problem was the difficulty of filling in the protocols in almost one-third of the cases (only 63% of the presidents in the observed polling stations recorded the results without any problems).
  • The data show that the procedures were understood and applied poorly compared to the voting period.
  • The fact that the SIMPV tablet stopped working at 9:30 PM meant in some cases that people about to vote did not managed to exercise their right. We believe that the failure of an electronic system should not limit the voters’ rights.

 

The data from the polling stations were obtained through the “Monitorizare Vot” app, developed by Code for Romania.

Conclusions on the electoral process and recommendations

Electoral legislation

  • The legislator should amend the electoral law in order to avoid changes before the election, which may compromise the smooth running of the electoral processes.
  • The legislator should initiate the elaboration of a consolidated Electoral Code in order to create a uniform legislative framework.

Electoral administration

  • The law could stipulate that the meetings of the electoral bureaus at any level are public.
  • The procedure for the formation of electoral bureaus should ensure the possibility for independent candidates to appoint representatives.
  • Legislation needs to be amended to allow supplement the number of members of electoral bureaux for out of country voting and ensure at least two substitutes for each member.
  • Strengthen the professional capacity of the members of the Electoral Expert Corps, through continuous training and constant evaluation. Electoral authorities can use feedback forms from the members of the electoral bureaus in order to improve the training process.

Candidates registration

  • In order to encourage political participation, the number of legally required signatures should be reduced for both the candidate lists and independent candidates. The number should not exceed 1% of the total number of voters on permanent electoral lists.
  • The law should be amended to allow any voter to support more than one candidate.
  • Introduce an effective and transparent mechanism for verifying signatures in accordance with the Code of Good Practice in Electoral Matters (Venice Commission)
  • Authorities should make efforts to permanently update the Register of Political Parties

Electoral campaign

  • The legislation must include clear, reasonable and uniform regulations on party electoral activities, regardless of when they are conducted, during or outside the electoral campaign.

Party and electoral campaign financing

  • Strengthening the platform www.finantarepartide.ro by publishing in open format the available data according to art. 46 and 54 of the Methodological Norms for the application of Law no. 334/2006 on the financing of the activity of political parties and electoral campaigns [1].
  • Setting limits to a maximum of 30% for the amounts of subsidies that may be used for the electoral campaign for the European Parliament elections.

The monitoring of the electoral process

  • The accreditation procedure should be amended so that it can be used for all polling stations without territorial limitations.
  • The authorities should apply the legal requirements on accreditation provided in Law 208/2015.
  • The provisions on electoral observation could be amended as to allow observers to monitor the entire electoral process.

Voter education

  • To ensure that accurate and timely information is provided to the voters, electoral authorities and competitors should develop electoral education materials and disseminate them
  • In order to properly inform voters on election day, informational materials (posters) must be displayed in each polling station, including at least the polling hours and main voting rules.

Election day

  • Legislation must specify a detailed and uniform procedure for sealing ballot boxes as well as clear standards for making and applying the seals.
  • Procedures for the administration of the SIMPV need to be clarified and detailed.
  • The period for submitting applications for the special ballot boxes must be extended, at least for the day of the vote.
  • The presidents of the electoral bureaus, with the consent of a senior electoral bureau, must be able to prolong the voting process in exceptional circumstances.
  • Adopt regulations for protocols to avoid terminological differences.

 

Voting Abroad

  • In order to ensure that all voters have the opportunity to vote, the legislator should extend the vote by correspondence to all types of elections.
  • Implementation of the vote in advance in the polling station abroad and Romania, for a period of at least three days before the date of the elections.
  • Supplementing the number of members of the electoral bureaus so that the polling station bureau can have a maximum of 15 members and each member may have up to two alternates.
  • Overseas training of a similar structure to the Electoral Experts Corps to support the training of members of electoral bureaus who do not benefit from the same conditions as in the country.
  • Increase the number of sections in the embassies or consulates where the space permits this so as to take advantage of as many rooms as possible.
  • Increasing the number of tablets to 2 or 3 in the areas where it is needed and taking over the provisions of Law 370/2004, according to which a member of the electoral bureau can assume the duties of the operator, by the decision of the president
  • Transmitting a number of additional stamps, at least two, which can be used in case of need. If their use is unnecessary, they can remain sealed until the end of the day
  • Simplifying the format of the additional electoral lists by reducing fields
  • Optional pre-registration, allowing voters to opt for a particular state. This could help to make more efficient polling stations

 

The participation of people with disabilities

  • Disabled voters presenting themselves to the polling station must have the option of voting, by way of exception, in another polling station if the section to which they are assigned to is not accessible.
  • Introducing special cabins for people with disabilities.
  • Electoral authorities must take all necessary measures to ensure that people with hearing or visual disabilities receive the necessary information on voting procedures and can vote without barriers.

 

 

Release of the report

 

FiecareVot Coalition


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