22 November second round was accompanied by usual for Ukraine violations of electoral legislation, some of which did not have a significant impact on the overall assessment of the vote. However, an increased number of incidents involving taking pictures of ballots is a serious concern and requires investigation into possible bribery schemes. The integrated voter turnout in 11 cities was 29.23% (margin of error - 1.3%). This information was presented by experts of Civil Network OPORA on 23 November press-conference in Kyiv.
Thus, OPORA's observers have detected over 275 violations of electoral legislation on 22 November. The key problem of the second round in 11 cities of Ukraine was the increase in the number of incidents involving voters taking pictures of their ballots (48).
Such abuses were detected at 13.58% of polling stations on election day (error margin 4.32%), what significantly exceeds the rate of similar violations detected on 25 October (1.6% of PECs) and 15 November (5.19% of PECs). Most cases of ballot photography was detected in Dnipro (27), Rivne (9), Cherkasy (3), and Poltava (3).
"The police has reported 177 incidents, while the data gathered by our observers shows that such violations were detected at 13% of polling stations. The largest number of them has occurred in the city of Dnipro. The problem is not just in the fact that voters took pictures of their ballots. We have already recorded such violations in small amounts at polling stations. Th problem is that these violations had signs of being systemic, i.e. it was not just a single person taking picture of the ballot. Therefore, there are grounds to state that such systematic violations signify voter bribery or controlled voting schemes in specific communities, where such incidents were recorded in large numbers," - said Head of the Board at Civil Network OPORA Olha Aivazovska.
However, OPORA's Senior Analyst Oleksandr Kliuzhev noted that overall statistics of violations has slightly decreased compared to previous rounds of local elections. Attempts to illegally issue ballots by the precinct election commission and to obtain ballots without passport verification by voters were detected at 4% of polling stations, while this percentage reached 10.04% on 25 October, and was the most frequent procedural violation at the time. Other quite widespread problems are voting outside the booth, showing a marked ballot paper or other forms of disclosing the secret of voting. Such cases occurred at 4.53% of polling stations, compared to 7.52% in the first round.
"This means that both activities of observers who actively interfere in the process of illegal issuance of ballots to stop such violations, and activities of the National Police, and probably the information campaign all create preconditions for solving this usual problem for Ukrainian elections, when members of election commissions and voters for various reasons enter into such an informal illegal agreement like issuance of ballots without verification of documents or on behalf of relatives. Therefore, we can only welcome the reduction of this indicator and call on the CEC and other state bodies, including lower-level commissions, to properly inform voters about the need to strictly comply with legislative requirements for obtaining ballots," - Oleksandr Kliuzhev said.
The problem of ballot manipulation has also decreased, in particular, attempts of ballot-box stuffing were detected at 0.41% of polling stations (0.64% in the first round).
In general, according to OPORA's observers, PEC members violated the vote count procedure at 7.95% of polling stations. The percentage of such violations during the first round reached 10.23%. However, the monitoring did not reveal any statistically significant cases of obstruction of the legal vote count process by candidates, authorized persons of party cells, proxies of candidates, or observers.
In the total number of incidents recorded by OPORA, 85 concerned a wide range of procedural violations committed by PEC members. In particular, 19 violations concerned the vote count process at polling stations. Simultaneous (parallel) counting of ballots by several members of election commissions has become a common practice, making it impossible for all PEC members and other electoral subjects to monitor. The practice of delaying the completion of vote count protocols was also widespread again, as PEC members wanted to receive financial compensation from the state for an extra day of work. Besides that, OPORA detected 8 violations of the procedure for drawing up a precinct protocol.
"With such procedural violations in mind, the state, the Parliament, and the Central Election Commission need to think about improvement of election administration system, particularly rising the competence of election commission members, their timely training, reducing political influence on election commission members and, of course, increasing financial compensations, so that people are motivated to perform such a socially important function. Now, in fact, it is based either on shadowed non-public financing from parties and candidates or on the civil reliability of election commission members. Neither one nor the other can guarantee the stability of such election commissions,"- Oleksandr Kliuzhev said.
We should also mention there were 7 incidents of obstruction of OPORA's observers in the second round.
OPORA's observers gave a generally positive assessment to election administration and the voting process at polling stations. PECs have provided proper conditions for the maximum realization of citizen voting rights in difficult epidemic conditions. However, public administration bodies at various levels should pay extra attention and address insufficient inclusiveness of the electoral process. According to the monitoring results, almost 59.83% of polling stations were not fully equipped for easy access of voters with disabilities to the premises on the second round. OPORA's observers drew attention to the problems that were also present on both 25 October and 15 November election days, particularly material and technical provision of election commissions (81 incidents).
According to Olha Aivazovska, a large number of requirements for measures against the spread of COVID-19 were violated by both election commission members and voters during the vote and vote count.
"For example, commission members who contacted a large number of voters during the day took off their masks during the vote count, forgot about all the requirements and conditions, and continued the process in the way they deemed necessary. Measures against COVID-19 were sometimes not realized out by members of the commissions, and sometimes, unfortunately, they were realized in a way that had signs of a criminal offense, namely obstruction of citizen suffrage. For example, a citizen in Mykolaiv, who came to the polling station with a baby was denied to cast the vote. As a result she didn't manage to take part in elections because she took the minor child to polls. We remind that the right to vote is guaranteed by the Constitution, while measures against COVID-19 and requirements of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine are recommendations. Everything should be based on a common sense, including the organization of these requirements for holding election as a whole," - she said.
As of 08:00 PM, the integrated voter turnout on 22 November second round in 11 cities of Ukraine was 29.23% (margin of error - 1.3%). To compare, voter turnout was 35.9% on 25 October voting across Ukraine. On 15 November, the integrated voter turnout in the second round in 7 cities was 23.9% at this time.