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COD States Concerns About Potential Use of Paper Ballots

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Sofia, Bulgaria – COD expresses concern about a dispute which may result in the use of paper ballots instead of voting machines for the parliamentary elections. Given the statistically high rates of invalidated paper ballots in the October 2023 Bulgarian Local Elections, the repeat use of paper over voting machines invites fraud, manipulation, and possible legal action which would not only lessen confidence in the integrity of the voting process, but also in the results representing the will of the voters.  COD urges the Central Election Commission (CEC) to adhere to the Bulgarian Electoral Code and use voting machines for the Bulgarian Parliamentary and EU elections.

Historically, invalidated paper ballots should not exceed 2 percent statistically unless there is manipulation of the process. Unfortunately, in the October 2023 local elections, while the overall process was orderly and efficient, around 20 percent were invalidated representing a statistically significant sum. Based on international best practices and norms, such large numbers of invalidated ballots suggest manipulation of the process by at least some electoral stakeholders. In addition, given the historically low voting turnout in Bulgaria (around 40 percent), the invalidation of ballots through the use of paper ballots further reduces voting participation. Furthermore, the voting machines in Bulgaria are protected by a unique QR code that secures each voter’s choice. The invalidation of ballots cast in a voting machine are virtually nonexistent.

At the time of the statement, the CEC given municipalities until 1600 today (Friday, June 7, 2024) to respond to written inquiries about contesting the disallowance of voting machines. As an American election monitoring organization with experience in 9 countries and in 28 international elections (including 3 in Bulgaria), the Committee for Open Democracy urges the Central Election Commission to make use of voting machines in municipalities around the country to ensure that each vote is counted.

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