August 7, 2020 - The Center for Civic Education (CGO-CCE) has expressed great concern over the Technical Recommendations for the Epidemiological Protection of Voters During Elections, adopted by the State Election Commission (SEC) yesterday, reports CGO-CCE program assistant, Damir Šuljević.
Technical recommendations adopted by SEC at yesterday's session - main provisions
CGO-CCE: SEC's Recommendations Unconstitutional, Unclear, Contradictory and Unenforceable
As explained by the CCE, the SEC has not passed legal provisions that enable citizens to exercise the right to vote guaranteed by the Constitution and, at the same time, ensure explicit election norms so that the election day passes with minimal epidemiological risk.
"It is devastating that the SEC worked for almost a month on a document containing only three pages of text that include many technical and spelling errors. This document remains inherently vague and, most importantly, unconstitutional. This document indicates in the title that it is a technical. However, the first part prescribes obligations, yet there are no apparent sanctions for violations, which is contrary to the letter of the law. Such a stunt makes the legal nature of this act unclear because it is not known whether they are recommendations or obligations," explains Šuljevic.
The proposed voting by post for persons in self-isolation or quarantine does not follow the provisions of the Law on Election of Councilors and Deputies and the SEC Rules on Postal Voting.
"More precisely, the specific position of persons in quarantine and self-isolation cannot be subsumed under the situations described by the law and the rules, even when under home or hospital treatment, which the SEC members presumably had in mind. Specifically, these persons are in a situation that is not given a medical diagnosis, neither do they show the presence of any disease. Still, (their situation) is a consequence of the competent state authority's decision as a measure to combat infectious diseases. Also, the planned postal voting for quarantined persons is technically tricky. The SEC Rules provide that one person may be authorized to apply for a maximum of one voter, except in the case of voters from the same household. That means that the number of people placed in quarantine requires almost or an equal amount of authorized persons to apply on their behalf, which, due to the limited contact between quarantined persons and their families, makes this idea absurd," the statement goes on to explain.
As Suljević points out, the epidemiological recommendations are also contradictory, unclear, and incomplete, and they do not respond to the generally known challenges that arice when calling elections.
"For example, it is recommended that a minimum distance of two meters be provided in front of the voter identification station. It neglects to mention that the voter must hand over the ID card to the polling station committee members, sign the excerpt from the voter list, and separate the control ballot from the ballot paper, etc. Also, it is prescribed that hand disinfection is performed before and after voting. In one paragraph of the document, it is prescribed that the voter disinfects hands after identification and then returns their mask to the face. In the second paragraph, hand disinfection is performed after the mask is replaced. Due to this unclear style, it remains very vague as to whether the voter disinfects their hands two, three, or four times at the polling station," they add.
As Šuljević mentions, these technical recommendations make it impossible for persons in quarantine outside the area of the municipality where they reside to vote. He points out that this restriction is contrary to other general acts passed by the SEC. It also brings an "unprecedented situation" of denying the right to vote guaranteed by the Constitution by technical recommendations because the Constitution prescribes the right to vote as general and equal to all citizens.
"CGO-CCE will submit to the Constitutional Court an initiative to review the constitutionality of the SEC's technical recommendations, and the latter must react promptly, bearing in mind that the election day is approaching. Also, the CCE calls on the SEC to continue work on this document and use the time until the elections to adopt constitutional, precise, and concrete instructions to enable the safe conduct of elections," the CGO-CCE statement concluded.