Centre for Civic Education (CCE) expresses serious concern about the Technical Recommendations for the Epidemiological Protection of Voters During Elections which, at yesterday’s session, were adopted by the State Election Commission (SEC). The SEC has not drafted a legal act that enables citizens to exercise the right to vote as guaranteed by the Constitution and at the same time ensuring with clear election norms that the election day passes with minimal epidemiological risk. Unfortunately, the SEC worked for almost a month on a document that contains only three pages of text with plenty of technical and spelling errors and that this document remains essentially incomplete and, most importantly, unconstitutional.
This document’s title indicates that it refers to technical recommendations. However, in the first part, obligations are prescribed, for which violation no sanction is envisaged, which is contrary to the alphabet of law. Such a legal stunt makes the legal nature of this act unclear as it is not known whether they are recommendations or obligations.
The proposed voting by letter for persons in self-isolation or quarantine is not in accordance with the provisions Law on the Election of Councilors and MPs and Rules on voting by letter adopted by the SEC. More precisely, the specific position of persons in quarantine and self-isolation cannot be categorized under the situations provided by the Law and the Rules, not even under home or hospital treatment, which the SEC members probably had in mind. Namely, such a position of these persons was not defined by a medical diagnosis or the presence of any disease, but represent a consequence of the decision of the competent state body, as a measure to combat infectious diseases. Besides, the envisaged voting by letter for quarantined persons is hardly applicable in the technical aspect, as the SEC’s Rules stipulate that one person may be authorized to apply with a request of a maximum of one voter, except in the case of voters from the same household. This means that the number of people placed in quarantine requires an almost equal number of authorized persons to submit a request on their behalf, which due to the limited contact of the quarantined persons and their families makes this idea absurd. Finally, the question arises: what about the voters who did not receive a decision and who are in home self-isolation, following the oral recommendations of the competent epidemiological authorities?
Epidemiological recommendations are also contradictory, unclear and vague and these have not addressed well-known challenges from calling these elections. For example, it is recommended to provide a minimum distance of two meters in front of the table where voters are identified. At the same time, it is neglected that the voter must hand over the ID card to the members of the polling board, that voter must sign the excerpt from the voter list, that after voting the member of the polling board should separate the control ballot from the ballot, etc. Furthermore, it is prescribed that hand disinfection is performed before and after voting. Thus, in one paragraph of the document it is prescribed that the voter disinfects hands even after identification, and then returns the mask on the face, and in the second paragraph that disinfection of the hands is performed after returning the mask on the face. Due to the nomotechnical disorder and unclear style, it remains unclear whether the voter disinfects the hands two, three or four times at the polling station.
These technical recommendations make voting impossible for persons who are in quarantine outside the area of the municipality where those persons reside. This restriction is contrary to other general acts passed by the SEC, and brings an unprecedented situation that technical recommendations deny the right to vote guaranteed by the Constitution, since the Constitution clearly prescribes that the right to vote is general and equal.
The CCE will submit to the Constitutional Court an initiative to review the constitutionality of the SEC’s technical recommendations and the Constitutional Court should react promptly, bearing in mind that the day of the elections is approaching. Also, the CCE urges the SEC to continue work on this document without delay and to use the time until the elections to adopt constitutional, clear and detail instructions to enable the safe conduct of the elections.
Damir Suljević, programme associate