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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Electoral Code. Commissioner for Human Rights on the provision on counting votes abroad and on ships: it violates the essence of the law. Marcin Wiącek, I appeal for a change

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The recently amended Electoral Code provides that commissions in precincts abroad and on Polish sea vessels will have 24 hours to count the cards. Otherwise, the vote will be considered null and void. Ombudsman Marcin Wiącek emphasizes that this “violates the essence of electoral law” and appeals to the marshals of the Sejm and the Senate to change the provision.

As the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights announced on Tuesday, “recently, in the public debate and in applications addressed to the Ombudsman, reservations regarding the time limit for counting votes in foreign voting circuits have appeared.”

“Pursuant to the applicable Article 230 § 2 of the Electoral Code, if the relevant constituency electoral commission does not obtain the results of voting in voting circuits abroad or on Polish sea vessels within 24 hours from the end of voting, voting in these circuits is considered not to have taken place.”

§ 1. On the basis of the protocols referred to in Art. 78 § 1, determines the results of voting for individual lists of candidates and draws up two copies of the record of voting results in the constituency. § 2. If the competent constituency electoral commission does not obtain the results of voting in polling wards abroad or on Polish sea vessels within 24 hours from the end of the voting referred to in Art. 39 § 6, voting in these circuits shall be deemed not to have taken place. This fact is recorded in the protocol of voting results in the electoral district, with the list of voting districts and possible reasons for not obtaining voting results from these districts.

According to the Defender, “this provision raises fundamental doubts from the point of view of compliance with Article 62(1) in conjunction with Article 31(3) of the Constitution of the Republic of Poland”.

1. A Polish citizen has the right to participate in a referendum and the right to elect the President of the Republic, deputies, senators and representatives to local government bodies, if he/she turns 18 on the day of voting at the latest.

3. Restrictions on the exercise of constitutional freedoms and rights may be established only by statute and only when they are necessary in a democratic state for its security or public order, or for the protection of the environment, health and public morals, or the freedoms and rights of other persons . These limitations can not affect the substance of freedoms and rights.

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“It provides that a valid vote cast by a person with full electoral rights may be considered invalid only because the electoral administration established for the purposes of the election fails to meet the statutory deadline for submitting the voting results to the district electoral commission. Thus, the electoral right of a citizen Polish vote is reduced to the possibility of casting a vote, which, due to the malfunctioning of the electoral apparatus, will not be counted and will not have any impact on the final election result.

The provision of the Electoral Code “violates the essence of electoral law”

This justifies the assessment – the statement says – that this provision of the Electoral Code “violates the essence of electoral law, which means the possibility of deciding on public matters and the direct exercise of power (Article 4(2) of the Constitution of the Republic of Poland) through participation in elections”.

In the case of voters casting their votes abroad, restrictions on this right may also result from the applicable laws of a given country or local regulations, especially since some countries still have restrictions related to the epidemic COVID-19” – marked.

According to the Ombudsman, the “restriction of electoral rights” referred to in the aforementioned provision of the Electoral Code does not meet the conditions set out in Art. 31 sec. 3 of the Constitution of the Republic of Poland.

“It should not violate the essence of this right, and should not make the validity and effectiveness of the vote dependent on circumstances that are not dependent on the citizen himself and result from problems with the efficiency of the election administration itself or from restrictions resulting from foreign law” – it was written.

The Constitution, as recalled in the communiqué, “does not differentiate the right to participate in elections depending on the place of residence”.

The Commissioner for Human Rights appeals to the Marshals of the Sejm and the Senate to amend the Electoral Code

The communiqué of the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights cites the latest report on the observation of the 2020 presidential election by the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) OSCEin which it was indicated that “the number of voters added to the electoral rolls in districts located abroad was a record”. “In the second round of these elections, out of 30,268,460 voters, 519,431 of them were voters abroad from 87 countries and 323 people on sea vessels,” we read.

As it was emphasized, “the work and analyzes of the Commissioner’s Office show that foreign voting circuits are very exposed to various organizational and technical problems related to the conduct of voting.” As an example, “the last elections were the subject of numerous complaints from citizens to the Ombudsman”, which concerned “not only problems related to postal voting, but also the conduct of voting in person at diplomatic missions on election day”.

“In connection with Marcin Wiącek asked the Marshals of the Sejm and the Senate to consider the need to amend the provisions of the Electoral Code in order to remove the time limit for counting votes in foreign voting circuits.

Main photo source: Shutterstock



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