Remarks on the Resolution of the CEC
On October 19, the Central Election Commission (CEC) adopted a Resolution that defined the issues related to the participation in elections of voters who are in stationary medical institutions for covid-19 patients and in isolation (quarantine, self-isolation). According to the Resolution, the aforementioned voters will have the means to cast their votes with the mobile ballot box, which will be handled by specialized groups. We present to you a number of remarks on the process of adopting the Resolution, as well as on its substance. The Resolution has a number of shortcomings, namely:
- According to the Resolution, persons who are in self-isolation or are receiving treatment at home will be included in the mobile ballot box list only if they address the CEC from October 24 to October 26. This restriction is not justified as it will be impossible to cast a vote should the CEC not be addressed on time. Moreover, the time period outlined by the Resolution to address the CEC is unjustifiably short. It is also unclear why people are restricted in their right to vote should they be forced to go into self-isolation or receive treatment at home after October 26. This is particularly concerning as the number of such people might be very high. This unjustly impedes their right to vote and creates an opportunity to leave out ‘undesirable’ voters from participating in the elections. As such, this restricts the constitutional right to vote. We are of the view that the CEC should automatically include these persons in the list and they should be given the right to demand removal from said list.
- The CEC went back on its initial decision that envisaged the setting up of special election precincts in stationary medical institutions or quarantine zones with more than 50 voters. The casting of the ballot will take place only with the mobile ballot box. We think that special election precincts should be created in stationary medical institutions and quarantine zones with more than 30 voters. This will ensure that the process is more transparent and allow better opportunities for election monitoring. The number of people that can observe the casting of ballots with the mobile ballot box is restricted. It is preferable for the process to be held in an environment where there can be complete and thorough monitoring of the casting of ballots.
- The Resolution states that a mobile ballot box can be accompanied by only one local and international observer, one representative of an electoral subject, and one press or mass media representative. First of all, it is unclear if observers will be given the right to accompany all the mobile ballot boxes in a precinct. Therefore, this part of the Resolution should be better defined. Furthermore, it is preferable to increase these quotas to at least two so that all involved parties can better perform their tasks.
- The Resolution does not explicitly define the rules for drafting the mobile ballot box lists. Namely, it is unclear if there will be a single mobile box or several for persons who are in stationary medical institutions, quarantine zones, self-isolation, and those getting treatment at home. If there will be multiple ballot boxes for this category of voters, it is unclear how the voters from different spaces will be grouped together. By breaking up the mobile ballot boxes, the election observation can be carried out in a more thorough and complete manner if the organizations as they won’t have to come into contact with covid-19 patients. Moreover, there will be fewer risks for the spread of the virus.
There are concerns over the process of the Resolution’s adoption:
- Back in May, Transparency International Georgia called on the executive government and the legislature to work with the CEC to timely adopt the relevant rules on holding the elections in a safe environment. The CEC began work on the Resolution only a month before the elections, in the beginning of October. The CEC began work on the issue of creating a safe environment for elections in regular precincts in September.
- It should be positively assessed that the representatives of the election administration, political parties, civil society, and international organizations were involved in the drafting of the Resolution. However, the Resolution draft was significantly amended after the last meeting of the working group and the participating parties didn’t have the opportunity to discuss said changes.
- The CEC gave the participating parties an unjustifiably small timeframe to present opinions and remarks on the Resolution, which was adopted the very same day without taking into account the significant remarks provided by the participating bodies.
We think that the process of adopting the Resolution was problematic due to the short timeframe, as well as the lack of remarks taken into account. The Resolution itself significantly restricts the voters’ right to vote. This is dangerous as many voters might have already chosen to abstain from participating in the elections due to the pandemic. With these circumstances in mind, it is unjustified and unacceptable to impose additional restrictions on voters’ inclusion in the mobile ballot box list.