site.btaUPDATED President Radev Vetoes Provisions of Amended Election Code
President Rumen Radev Wednesday vetoed provisions of the amendments to the Election Code adopted on December 2, his press secretariat said. Radev vetoed part of the amendments concerning voting and vote tallying.
The amendments reinstated paper ballots on a par with voting machines, introduced screens instead of polling booths, and stipulated that voting machines will print out ballots which will be counted manually after the close of the polls along with the paper ballots cast and the preferences. The machine voting tally sheet will no longer be part of the section commission tally sheet.
In the recent Election Code amendments, the law-makers have not exercised their power to regulate electoral relations in compliance with the principles of the Constitution. Most provisions relating to machine voting do not meet the constitutional standards of equality and secrecy of the vote, the President said in his reasoning.
The President asked why ballot papers and machine voting had to be mixed in a voting section. He argued that when the law provides for different treatment for the same right or obligation, this must be based on an objective criterion. The amendments, however, allow voters to choose between paper ballot or machine ballot and create a prerequisite for unequal treatment because the law-makers have not set a criterion that all voters at the voting section must meet, the President said.
The arrangements for machine voting which pre-date the amendments provide guarantees that voters can verify how the electronic system has recorded their votes, as well as guarantees against invalid votes.
This is substantiated by data on the number of invalid ballots over the years. In the 2022 parliamentary elections, there were 9,042 invalid ballot papers, as against 86,527 in the April 2021 parliamentary elections, the President noted. "I am aware that the guarantees provided by the voting machine regulations still in effect are not absolute and cannot by themselves solve all the problems of the electoral process accumulated over the years. However, removing those guarantees would alienate voters from the electoral process instead of encouraging all Bulgarian citizens to exercise the right to vote," he added.
The changes not only duplicate the voting method without an objective criterion, but also replace the characteristics of machine voting as a type of electronic voting carried out in a controlled environment. This contradicts the objective to give voters the right to choose between paper ballot and machine ballot because in all cases the machine ballots will not be counted by the machine. Instead, the section election commission will count the machine voting ballots. The amendments scrap both the machine voting tally sheet as part of the section election commission's tally sheet, and the transfer of machine voting tally sheet data via a technical recording device. According to Radev, the amendments eliminate the specific features of machine voting and its regulation no longer corresponds to its name and purpose as a type of electronic voting.
"Legislative expediency can and should be exercised only within the constitutionally enshrined limits, with which the adopted the Election Code amendments are incompatible because they do not guarantee the equality of voters before the law, the secrecy of their vote and the optimal organization of the electoral process abroad," the President concluded.