Civil Network OPORA has joined an initiative aimed to update the list of state data sets that need to be made public. Our proposal concerns the data related to elections: information about the membership of precinct election commissions; information about the completion of protocols in the "Vybory" Information and Analytical System; information about the registered official observers; information about the number of voters per an election precinct or election address.
Free access to state data and their further use is extremely valuable for society and economy. The state maintains significant information about various aspects of our lives, most of which must be open to all. The Ministry of Digital Transformation of Ukraine is responsible for the implementation of state policy in the field of open data. The Ministry of Digital Transformation has recently launched a project Diia.Open Data, which aims to open government data. It collects propositions to the Resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine #835 on Approval of the Regulation of Data Sets, Subject to Publication in Open Data Format. This document defines the list of data sets to be published, as well as requirements for the format and structure of these data.
Civil Network OPORA also joined the initiative and submitted its proposals. Our proposals expand the list of data sets to be opened by the Central Election Commission. We believe that implementation of these proposals will increase transparency and accountability of the election process, as well as increase confidence in it.
What says the Resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers #835 (of June 17, 2020)?
According to the current Resolution, the Central Election Commission must publish the following data sets:
- information on the results of election of the President of Ukraine;
- information on the election of MPs of Ukraine;
- information on regular overseas constituency and single-mandate constituencies with description of their boundaries, center and the number of polling stations;
- information on regular election precincts, including their addresses and locations of the relevant precinct election commissions;
- financial reports on the receipt and use of electoral funds from: candidates for President of Ukraine; political parties, which MP candidates are registered in the nationwide election district; MP candidates running in single-mandate districts;
- local election outcomes;
- the number of voters within rations, cities of oblast and republican (in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea) significance, city districts, the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, oblasts, cities of Kyiv and Sevastopol, as well as in the overseas constituency.
The CEC released all data from the list, except for the results of the local elections, on the state open data portal. Information on the latter has not been published because the "Vybory" Information and Analytical System is not introduced at the level of territorial election commissions (over 8,000 commissions). OPORA notes it’s necessary to widely introduce the data transmission system, or create other mechanisms to receive data from TECs. It’s highly topical today, as the next local elections in Ukraine will take place in fall. Their results must be promptly transmitted and published in an open data format.
What is reasonable to add? OPORA’s proposals
The Cabinet of Ministers‘ Resolution contains only a small part of the data maintained by the CEC. The CEC has much more information at its disposal. Its publication will increase the transparency of election administration bodies, detect problems and find and mechanisms for their solution, expand the source base for analytics and increase public confidence in the electoral process as a whole.
Civil Network OPORA suggests adding the following data sets into the Resolution:
- Information on the membership of precinct election commissions (PECs) in presidential and parliamentary elections
The work of PEC members has a great impact on the quality of the election process. After all, their responsibilities include the organization of voting at polling stations and the vote count. Frequent rotations at precinct commissions and their level of training have a direct impact on the quality of the voting process at polling stations. According to the regulations on the use of the "Vybory" Information and Analytical System by district election commissions, commissions shall enter into the system all information on the establishment of PECs, including information on the replacement of commission members, as well as information on the appointment of management.
Publication of this data will help address the following issues:
- OPORA's observers often reported that citizens were not informed about their inclusion into PECs. There were also cases, when the appointed commission members are actually dead. This happens when parties or candidates use illegal citizen databases to nominate the maximum number of PEC members. And after the draw, they replace fake candidates with real ones. We believe that the publication of such data will allow to investigate this problem in detail and to develop prevention mechanisms.
- So-called "technical" parties or candidates are also quite often used in Ukraine to get the widest possible representation in election commissions. Once this data set is published, we will get an opportunity to trace the links and find out which political parties use such technologies.
- The disclosure of these data will allow to quickly examine the results of the draw and the appointment of management (uniformity, geography, etc.), as well as to analyze the gender composition of commissions.
- Regularly published lists of precinct commission members will allow us to follow how the experience of PEC members affects the quality of election administration.
- Information about entering polling station protocols in the "Vybory" Information and Analytical System
During the parliamentary and presidential elections, district election commissions enter the information from all PEC protocols into the “Vybory” IAS. They do this for logical verification of data and transfer of information to the Central Election Commission. Each data entry from the protocols is stored in the system. It displays both the data of erroneous protocols and information about the corrected protocols. According to OPORA, the publication of such a data set will allow to:
- Analyze errors, made by PECs when completing protocols. This, in turn, will help to develop effective recommendations for training materials for commission members before the next election, as well as to analyze the training level of precinct commission members.
- Investigate a so-called problem "Future protocols" or the delay of vote count. The problem is, PEC members receive a salary for each day they work. Although the work of election commission is considered finished as of the date and time the district election commission signs its protocol, DECs quite often delay the vote count or sign the protocol with a future date to get a bigger pay. Analysis of these data will allow to study the scale of this phenomenon.
- Investigate the problem of rewriting protocols. According to the election legislation, PEC representatives should return to the polling station and draw up a corrected protocol in case any errors are noticed in it. However, members of precinct commissions quite often violate this requirement and falsify protocols right in the DEC premises or near it. Such information contains data stamps, and violators can be easily identified. Besides that, it's possible to assess the scale of such violation.
- Information about registered official observers
In the last election of the President of Ukraine, 183 non-governmental organizations, which registered more than 80,000 observers, received permission to conduct observation. OPORA has investigated this information in detail and revealed that most of registered NGOs have direct ties with candidates and parties, what violates standards of citizen observation and undermines public confidence in the independent election observation. Besides that, NGOs can be used for so-called fake observation. According to OPORA, the publication of these data will increase the transparency of election process and help to better investigate the issue of fake observation.
- Information on the number of voters per polling station and election address
During the 2019 elections, OPORA received a large number of appeals regarding “dead souls” in voter lists. Information about dead souls in the register was often spread by the media. During the last election, some candidates noted it's impossible to verify the voter register, and according to the calculations of one candidate, he would need 6,000 years to check the voter register. According to our information, a complete audit of the State Register has never been conducted in Ukraine. All these facts also steal the confidence of citizens in the State Register, as well as the whole election process and election outcomes. Publication of the number of voters per polling station and address will help to find deviations and anomalies in the number of registered voters, increase public confidence in election administration bodies and increase the transparency of the election process itself.
Short film "Open Election Data". What we need to trust the election outcomes more.