We had no influence on it at all, but it pained us greatly to see the conditions in which voters cast their votes – this is how the head of the National Electoral Office, Magdalena Pietrzak, answered the question whether, due to the long queues of people willing to vote during Sunday’s parliamentary elections, members of the National Electoral Commission they intend to resign. During the last Tuesday conference, TVN24 reporter Artur Molęda also asked, among others: for the independence and apolitical nature of the National Electoral Commission.
The last conference of the National Electoral Commission regarding the parliamentary elections was held on Tuesday after 6 p.m. It was preceded by many hours of waiting since the official results appeared on the commission’s website after 100 percent of the votes had been counted.
Resignation of NEC members?
TVN24 reporter Artur Molęda asked members of the National Electoral Commission, among others: about the reasons for the delay in Tuesday’s NEC conference, and whether they intend to resign due to problems at electoral commissions related to long waiting times to cast votes.
The head of the National Electoral Office, Magdalena Pietrzak, replied that when it comes to long queues to the commission, “we had no influence on it at all, but it pained us greatly to see the conditions in which voters cast their votes.” She argued that, in accordance with the provisions of the Electoral Code, “the service and technical and material working conditions of district electoral commissions and the performance of tasks related to the organization and conduct of elections in the commune area are provided by the commune head, mayor and city president.”
– Nine members of the National Electoral Commission are unable to prepare the elections. (…) The regulations provide that these tasks are performed in the commune by city authorities, i.e. commune heads, mayors and presidents. (…) It is the city authorities’ responsibility to organize the elections so that voters can cast their votes in decent conditions and not stand in lines, Pietrzak said. – We will analyze it – she added.
“It’s not easy to prepare this”
Magdalena Pietrzak then explained that several thousand people were involved in organizing the elections, and the entire nation was participating in them. – It’s not easy to prepare this. Hundreds of thousands of people, everyone is responsible for something, one mistake actually has a snowball effect, because when there is an error in some protocol in one commune, the entire district electoral commission cannot determine the results, she said.
– You expect us to provide you with immediate feedback when something happens. When there are hundreds of thousands of people involved, no one can really say when it will end. (…) This is a lottery, because with such a large scale of tasks to be performed, it is not justified to expect that we will be able to say when – emphasized the head of KBW.
She added that the National Electoral Commission website was constantly updated, so you could find current and detailed information there. – We tried to do it very quickly, but also well – she assured.
Questions about queues to vote. PKW: service and conditions are provided by local governments
NEC member Ryszard Balicki pointed out that the number of voters and the number of involved commission members show the enormity of this undertaking. He emphasized that formal documentation must be carried out on paper and prepared precisely, for example in terms of the number of signatures.
– It’s not that we, as members of the commission, wanted to keep you longer and we wanted to keep voters longer. The process of preparing all the protocols, on the one hand of the district commissions, then of the district commissions, and then of the National Electoral Commission, all this takes time and even if one commission has a problem with preparing the minutes, this extends the time. (…) Hence, at this time we can provide the official, final results, which in fact you saw in the system much earlier. This suggested that this conference might be imminent, but there also had to be paper documentation, Balicki explained.
Questions about the independence and apolitical nature of the National Electoral Commission
Artur Molęda also asked about the independence and apolitical nature of the National Electoral Commission. As established by the authors of the report “To a partnership with PiS. (Nie)zależni”, four of its members sat, and some still serve, on supervisory boards of state-owned companies and institutions. The power over these companies and institutions is vested in ministers who are also PiS candidates in the elections. Moreover, one of the members of the National Electoral Commission, Dariusz Lasocki, during the previous election campaign, first donated money to the PiS campaign and later participated in the control of the party’s campaign expenses.
In response to this question, Sylwester Marciniak cited the provisions of the Electoral Code and explained that the National Electoral Commission acts in accordance with them. – Don’t you see a moral contradiction that someone donate money to the Law and Justice election campaign in 2019 and settle it a year later? I am asking about moral principles, judge, said Artur Molęda to chairman Marciniak.
– It is settled by the National Electoral Commission, at least six out of nine members vote, because there must be a quorum – replied the head of the National Electoral Commission.
Head of the National Electoral Commission: we asked for a demographic correction
When asked at Tuesday’s press conference about the need for demographic correction, the Chairman of the National Electoral Commission recalled that the National Electoral Commission had first addressed this matter to the then Speaker of the Sejm in 2015, before the parliamentary elections.
– At that time, this correction required about 10 percent, but it is known that subsequent population changes took place in individual constituencies and now it is a broader issue, around 20 percent of constituencies – noted Marciniak. As he pointed out, this was not the last attempt to introduce a correction. – The last time we asked for this was last year – said the head of the National Electoral Commission. However, he pointed out that electoral districts are defined as an annex to the Electoral Code. – We do not have legislative and legislative power. We can only appeal to the Sejm, in accordance with the provisions of the Electoral Code, and only the Sejm has the power and can possibly change the law – he pointed out.
– Due to the fact that this division of seats is an annex to the act, the decision must be made by politicians – added Ryszard Balicki. He admitted that “politicians are not always interested in such changes.” He assessed that “it would be worth it to be a different mechanism that would take into account demographics and would not require politicians’ decisions.” He noted that such mechanisms operate in different countries and “perhaps then it would be simpler.” In his opinion, the current mechanism turned out to be ineffective and therefore it is necessary to change the number of seats in 21 districts.
He pointed out that all foreign votes are added to the electoral districts in Warsaw. – This means that this result is inadequate to the number of seats that are divided in Warsaw – said Balicki.
Main photo source: PAP/Piotr Nowak