ISFED Urges the Election Administration to Recount Votes at Problematic Polling Stations
The ISFED’s assessment of June 15, 2014 local self-government elections has been quite positive considering that there was a decrease in procedure-type violations during the polling process compared to both the 2010 local self-government elections and the 2013 presidential elections. Notably, unlike the previous elections some important violations have been found at several polling stations including physical violence, ballot box stuffing and taking illegal hold of/damaging materials. Considering that the scale of such incidents was limited and the election administration took further actions in response by annulling results at polling stations concerned, these violations have not had any impact on final Election Day results. However, we must note that not only the process of polling but also tabulation of results and drawing up of summary protocols is essential for having transparent and fair elections, all which will allow us to assess the influence that these processes have had on the final election results and whether the conduct of elections has been democratic.
In this light, ISFED examined Election Day summary protocols from all polling stations. Based on reports from ISFED’s election observers and the analysis of information after carefully examining election summary protocols, ISFED has identified several important trends outlined below:
1. High rate of invalid ballots
• Compared to the 2010 local self-government elections, there has been a 4% increase of average rate of invalid ballot papers (1%), amounting to 5% throughout Georgia;
• The highest percentage rate of invalid ballots is in proportionate summary protocols, equaling to 5% average while average percentage rate of invalid ballots in proportional and gamgebeli summary protocols, equaling to 5% average while average percentage rate of invalid ballots in summary protocols of Majoritarian and Mayoral elections is 4%;
• The rate of invalid ballots is above 10% in summary protocols for Gamgebeli elections at 3% (110) of polling stations throughout Georgia, and at 5.3% (193) and 4.7% (170) of polling stations in summary protocols for majoritarian and proportionate elections, respectively. Overall, the rate of invalid ballots was higher than 10% at 13% of the polling stations throughout Georgia, which is quite high;
• The highest average rate of invalid was found in Kvemo-Kartli and Samkhtse-Javakheti regions, as well as Sagarejo District. At several polling stations in these regions the rate of invalid ballots was over 15%. These are polling stations in Sagarejo, Gardabani, Marneuli, Bolnisi, Dmanisi, Akhalkalaki, Tsalka, Adigeni, Ninotsminda. There is a lower number of polling stations in other districts where the rate of invalid ballots was also high – e.g. polling stations in Gori, Ozurgeti, Zugdidi, Mestia.
2. More than a thousand irregularities and violations in summary protocols reported at hundreds of polling stations
• Up to 500 summary protocols were missing important attributes, including a seal of the commission, signatures of election commission members, date and more. In several instances a single summary protocol was missing several types of attributes;
• Figures did not reconcile in up to 500 summary protocols . In a number of cases summary protocols were enclosed with correction protocols at polling stations; however, in majority of cases DECs and the CEC failed to enclose summary protocols with correction or explanatory protocols in a timely manner;
• One or more data had been corrected in over 50 summary protocols. The highest number of corrected summary protocols (24) was found in Samtskhe-Javakheti Region, in Akhalkalaki and Akhaltsikhe districts in particular;
• Overall, the highest number of irregularities in summary protocols was found in Kvemo-Kartli and Samtskhe-Javakheti districts and in Tbilisi.
ISFED welcomes the fact that for the purpose of remedying irregularities and violations at polling stations, district and central election commissions took immediate further actions in response and corrected irregularities in certain cases by analyzing causes of problems found in summary protocols and recounting results in district election commissions in a number of instances. All of this could have been the result of having unqualified election officials at polling stations, which the election administration must take into account when recruiting members for precinct election commissions, to avoid any such problems. In particular, the CEC should comprehensively examine all facts and bring administrative and disciplinary measures of liability against members of commission who have committed important violations and mistakes. Further, these persons should no longer be recruited as commission members for future elections.
ISFED also believes that high rate of invalid ballots could have been caused by the complexity of local self-government elections and/or nihilistic approach of the population towards the elections. However, we also believe that to increase trust in the election process, before tabulating final results of the election the election administration should first recount results at polling stations where the number of invalid ballots is quite high, as well as at polling stations where figures did not reconcile and important inaccuracies were found in summary protocols. We believe that to ensure transparency of the process, all stakeholders – representatives of election subjects, political parties and international and local non-governmental organizations should be invited to attend the recount.
We remain hopeful that the CEC will consider the recommendation and recount results, which will ensure increased trust towards the election processes and election results, and democratic conduct of elections.
This report is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the responsibility of ISFED and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government. Election activities including this report are kindly supported by the Embassy of Kingdom of Netherlands in Georgia.