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Electoral Code. The Sejm overruled the Senate’s veto

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The Sejm did not support the Senate’s resolution to reject the amendment to the Electoral Code. The amendment is intended by its authors, PiS deputies, to increase access to polling stations for residents of small towns and to increase voter turnout. The bill will now go to the president’s desk.

On Thursday, 235 deputies voted for the rejection of the Senate’s resolution, 216 deputies voted against it, no one abstained from voting. The amendment to the Electoral Code means that it will now go to the president.

Resolution about rejection of the amendment to the Electoral Code The Senate accepted on February 22.

Access to polling stations in the amendment to the Electoral Code

The amendment to the Electoral Code assumes, among other things, increasing access to polling stations for residents of small towns. According to the amendment, the mayor of a rural or rural-urban commune is to provide free passenger transport in the form of public transport “in order to vote for voters included in the voters list in a permanent voting circuit located in the area of ​​a given commune, if there is no on election day, public collective transport or if the nearest communication stop of functioning collective transport is more than 1.5 km from the polling station.

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According to the new regulations, a disabled voter with a severe or moderate degree of disability, and a voter who turns 60 on the day of voting at the latest, have the right to free transport from their place of residence to the polling station appropriate for the voting precinct.

One of the changes assumes the “review and division” of the already existing voting districts. As a result of the changes – as stated in the justification – “the estimated number of new district commissions is about 6,000”. According to the National Electoral Commission, in the 2019 parliamentary elections, the number of precincts, including foreign ones, was over 27.5 thousand.

The justification emphasized that according to the current regulations, “a permanent voting circuit should cover from 500 to 4,000 inhabitants.” After the changes, the permanent voting circuit is to cover 200 inhabitants; upper limit of 4,000 inhabitants remains unchanged. This change will increase the number of polling stations and their accessibility.

The changes also apply to the composition of district and regional electoral commissions. Currently, the Electoral Code provides that the district electoral commission is composed of 4 to 10 judges and ex officio, as the chairman, the election commissioner. In turn, the regional electoral commission consists of 4 judges and ex officio, as the chairman, the election commissioner. After the changes – instead of judges – they are to be persons “having higher legal education and guaranteeing proper performance of this function”.

The amendment also contains provisions adopted in the Sejm as amendments PIS concerning the recording of the work of the precinct electoral commission by trustees using their own recording devices. Currently, in accordance with the Electoral Code, it is possible for poll stewards to record the activities of the commission before the start of voting, i.e. checking whether the ballot box is empty, closing the ballot box and sealing it, and checking whether there is a list of voters and the necessary number of ballot papers on site. And then they can record the work of the commission only from the closing of the polling station to the signing of the protocol.

The provision adopted with the amendment says, however, that the activities of the precinct electoral commission may be registered by the stewards from the moment the commission takes the first steps until the signing of the protocol – that is also during the voting.

Pursuant to the amendment, the Central Register of Voters will be created, which is to be used to determine the number of voters, to compile lists of voters and lists of persons entitled to participate in the referendum, and to check whether they have the right to vote.

Heads of commune will have access to CRW, PKW and election commissioners through the National Electoral Office, the Minister of Information Technology, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and consuls. The CRW will be updated by the communes as commissioned tasks. The register is to be maintained by the Minister of Information Technology. In the years 2022-2031, expenditure on CRW is to amount to a maximum of PLN 91.72 million, of which: in 2022 – PLN 2.3 million; in 2023 – PLN 28.9 million; in 2024 – PLN 7.6 million; and in the years 2025-2031 PLN 7.56 million each.

Main photo source: PAP/Darek Delmanowicz

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