During the election day, observers of the Civil Network OPORA did not identify any systemic violations of election law or conflicts that would destabilize the course of voting or have any significant impact on citizen voting results. However, frequent and recurrent procedural violations made by polling station election commissions and the incompetence or illegitimate intentions of voters had a negative effect on the course of election process on election day on July, 21, 2019.
"We failed to identify any systemic violations that could affect the course of voting or the voting results, as of this moment. Nevertheless, it does not imply that in the course of voting and on the stage of vote count, violations were absent. It is obvious that Ukraine has not progressed that far in this respect. In particular, at 10% of polling stations, we recorded the facts of issuing voting ballots to persons without due grounds therefor. Upon the whole, 139 cases of the kind were recorded. In some cases, the situation was rather comic when the ballots were issued upon the pension IDs, international passports, or a passport’s photocopy. It is obvious, that the problem is most typical for small places and regions where members of polling station commissions don’t think it mandatory to request IDs from people they know personally. At the same time, there is a positive trend such as fewer cases of taking photos of the ballots, as it occurred during the presidential elections, especially during the second round. In general, the number of polling stations where such cases were identified was almost 4% nationwide. Currently, it dropped to 0.8% of polling stations," – says Olga Aivazovska, chair of the board of the Civil Network OPORA.
Major concern is caused by numerous cases of issuing voting ballots without presenting due IDs, or multiple attempts to vote for another person. On election day, such cases were identified in different regions of Ukraine, at 10.1% of polling stations.
Other type of frequent violations on election day on July, 21, was the disclosure of the secrecy of voting by showing to voters the filled ballot, or incompliance with the requirements on installing the booths and arranging voting places within the polling station commission. Such cases were recorded at 4.2% of polling stations. During the second round of the presidential election in Ukraine, the number was 5% but it was lower at the recent parliamentary elections (3.9% of polling stations).
During this elections, all participants of electoral process were more responsible in complying with the requirement not to take photos of the ballots at the stations. Such incidents were sporadic and identified only at 0.8% of polling stations. In the first round of presidential election, the scale of such violations was much bigger (4.8% of polling stations). During the second round, cases of taking photos of ballots at the premises of polling stations (in a booth or beyond), were recorded by OPORA observers at 3.3% of polling stations.
OPORA observers informed about the lack of repeated attempts to cast ballots into ballot boxes in packs, or taking the ballots outside the polling station (statistical indicator of recording such violations is 0.1%). However, observers also noted the fact of casting ballots into a fixed ballot box at the polling station commission no. 140750 in a constituency no.50 in the city of Myrnohrad (Donetsk region). No planned and systemic actions were identified that could signify the attempt of vote buying at polling stations.
It is common for election in Ukraine to have illegitimate voting, such as the voting without documents, on the grounds of other documents than required by the law (such as on the grounds of an international passport (PS 461150 constituency 125 (Lviv region), pension ID (PS 730195 constituency 202 (Chernivtsi region), a passport’s photocopy (at polling station no. 710742 in the village of Holovkivka (Chyhyryn district, Cherkasy region), voting instead of another person that had features of the crime set under Article 158 of the CC of Ukraine in 130 cases (69 violations in western regions of Ukraine, 49 cases in central regions, and others – in the East and in the South).
In 59 cases, it was recorded a violation of the procedure for counting the votes (a typical violation is violation of the order of the count, made by members of the polling station commission when they took the ballots in piles, they poured the ballots out from all boxes at the same time and put them into piles). In 7 cases, despite the completion of the count procedure, the commission refused to urgently issue the copies of protocols to observers. In 11 cases, there were signs of falsifying or manipulation with voting documents (many such cases occurred in central regions of Ukraine). A typical violation was to indicate in the protocol of the polling station commission the date of the next day of July, 22, 2019, at the PS 461520 of constituency no. 125 (Lviv region) signatures in the protocols of vote tabulation were signed still during the voting.
In 3 cases, there was a direct counteraction to taking record of violations coming from the commissions (such as at PS 181432, PS 181432 (Zhytomyr region) – ban for video-recording; at PS 120458 (Dnipropetrovsk region) – a secretary of the polling station commission and the village head prevented observation). Observers faced obstacles and limitations in their observation in 13 cases, and also it was recorded 4 cases when commissions posed threats to observer’s safety. In particular, the observer was threatened in aggressive manner to be put off from the polling station (PS 511442 constituency 135 (Odesa region), physical obstacles to taking record of entering into protocols the untruthful data (PS 181432 constituency 62 (Zhytomyr region), PS 120458 constituency 34 (Dnipropetrovsk region).
Unauthorized persons present at the polling stations were recorded in 23 cases (in most cases, it was about the representatives of the National Police, The State Emergency Service of Ukraine, heads of village councils, deputies of local councils). The identified person was present at the polling station commission as a journalist but under an invalid ID (PSC 320278 constituency 94, Kyiv region); also on a special polling station 531211 constituency 144 (Poltava region) in colony 64, when the vote count was attended by the head of the penitentiary institution who checked the ballots and sent data to somebody upon announcing the results for certain candidates. It may signify the controlled nature of voting. At the PS 320270, 8 persons tried to be present in the voting place.
Having a voter publicly show the ballot was recorded in 11 cases; in 15 cases, voters were taking photos of the ballots, and 14 cases of campaigning at the polling station were recorded.
In 6 cases, voters were illegitimately banned from voting (such as in 3 cases, the grounds for rejection was the fact that the voter lacked an extract on the place of the voter’s registration, in addition to an ID as he did not have it along); taking the ballot outside the polling station was recorded in 5 cases.
In addition, it was recorded 188 other violations, which vast majority were about breaching on informational and inventory and logistics support, and procedural violations made by election commission. For example, they did not cast the control letters (PS 321389 constituency 91, Kyiv region), or announced breaks during the count (PS 480770 constituency 127 (Mykolaiv region)
Moreover, in 14 cases, it was recorded incidents related to campaigning at the polling station. The most widespread types were the following: 1) voters were coming to the station wearing the clothes branded with symbols of certain political forces; 2) printed campaigning materials were placed outside, near the PSC; 3) a candidate communicated with voters at the polling station (PS 610086 constituency 167); 4) campaigning by a commission member to vote against all candidates, in front of the voting place (PS 650613 constituency 184 (Kherson region).
It was recorded the fact of taking ballots outside - 5 cases (in the East - 4, Center - 1). The reason for taking the ballots outside the polling station was usually in technical barriers for voting (a voter with a disability was not able to enter the PS; a power cut).
Olga Aivazovska also added: "When it goes about the current stage of electoral process, such as the vote count and the work of district election commissions, unfortunately, the process is not without conflicts. However, the most blatant cases were related to the operations of the DEC 94 in Kyiv region. There, from 1 a.m. and until almost 06:15 a.m., the DEC stopped accepting protocols from the polling station commissions, and removed themselves from the process they were directly in charge of – such as accepting protocols and sum up the vote. According to different sources, certain commission members planned to appeal to the CEC in order to resign from their positions, but let me remind that on election day, and on the next day, it cannot be done. That is why the self-withdrawal from the final stage of the vote count and election results can have signs of major violations, including also violations qualified by Ukrainian law as a criminal offense. That is why we would like to ask the DEC members, despite a rather conflicting campaign in this constituency, to continue the process."
Since 20:00, on July, 21, OPORA observers started their observation over the course of vote count. It was identified several problematic district election commissions: DEC 199 (Cherkasy region) – mass rewriting of protocols, commission members evading the work in DEC 94 (Kyiv region), DEC - 116 decisions adopted under lack of quorum, DEC 181 (Kharkiv region) – unidentified persons near the DEC facility (over 10 persons), DEC 59 (Donetsk region) – termination to accept the documents before 12.00, resulting into waiting lines of commission members.
According to Oleksandr Kliuzhev, an analyst at Civil Network OPORA, observation is not limited to the election day, which allows to assess the entire campaign in general. "Based on reports of our long-term observers, we might claim that this election complied with the democratic standards and requirements of the acting law, despite the fact that the pre-election campaigning had some violations by candidates and political parties. In our opinion, voters had a competitive choice of alternatives among the political parties and candidates in their constituencies. In the absolute majority of one-mandate constituencies, not only in a national multi-mandate constituency, electoral process was competitive. In fact, the candidates competed for voters. It positively characterizes the quality of this campaign. We basically have no regions with inactive campaign, and the available preliminary data on the vote count support this feature of the election campaign. A positive factor is that during this election, no political party or political group abused the administrative resource for their own benefit, on a central, nationwide basis. However, unfortunately, local political leaders and the standing MPs had access to state or local municipal mechanisms to use them in their own favour during election campaign. We hereby appeal to the Government again, and possibly, to the future Parliament, - to take the due steps to further de-politicize public service and local self-government service, to reduce the risk for abuse of budget funds for political and electoral benefit, by adopting special changes to the law, or by introducing changes to the by-laws," – he says.
At the same time, Oleksandr Neberykut, an analyst at Civil Network OPORA, also emphasized other problems related to shadow funding. "When it goes not only about the election day, we can highlight the two pervasive themes that need attendance by different institutions, including also the reform of the law. In the first place, it is about the shadow nature of funding various aspects of electoral process. There are two blocks where the theme is reiterated and not addressed anyhow: firstly, it is about the shadow payment for the work of election commission members, secondly – the concealed advertising," - he states.
On the election day, on July, 21, Civil Network OPORA conducted a parallel vote tabulation for the turnout of voters on the basis of a representative number of polling stations on a national scale. The data was recorded as of 12:00, 16:00 and 20:00. Upon the whole, on a nationwide scale, according to OPORA, the turnout at the early parliamentary elections on July, 21, 2019, was 49.3% (error ± 0.6%).
Full text of statement of the Civil network OPORA on preliminary results of the early parliamentary election can be found at the link.