The Association for Participatory Democracy (ADEPT) presented an analytical note on means of setting up polling stations abroad and the probability of the number of polling stations abroad to be opened in the 2020 presidential elections.
The correctness and transparency of the process of setting up polling stations abroad are essential to ensure the right to vote of Moldovan citizens abroad and to substantiate their confidence in the good faith application of electoral law by state institutions. The issue of the number and geographical location of polling stations abroad, including how they were set up, was debated in the previous presidential election. Starting 2019, the Central Electoral Commission (CEC) took over from the Government the responsibility for setting up polling stations abroad, which from 2010 can be opened in other localities than diplomatic missions and consular offices of the Republic of Moldova, with the agreement of competent authorities of those countries.
For 2020, the Central Electoral Commission has provided for the opening of 150 polling stations abroad. On 26 August 2020, the Association for Participatory Democracy “ADEPT” published an analytical note on how to set up and the probability of the number of polling stations abroad for the presidential elections in 2020. Using the methodology developed in May 2020 by the Promo-LEX Association, ADEPT performed a simulation of the estimated number of polling stations to be opened abroad, based on the official information available on the three criteria for setting up polling stations.
The three criteria are: the number of voters who participated in the 2019 parliamentary elections; the number of prior registrations of voters abroad, published on the CEC website www.alegator.md, since 2018, and the number of citizens abroad, according to data from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration (MFAEI), received from the competent authorities from the countries of residence of Moldovan citizens.
The results of the simulation can be found on the page http://alegeri.md/. The conclusions of the simulation show that before the elections, two of the criteria, namely the number of citizens abroad and the number of prior registrations are decisive in determining the number and geographical location of polling stations for the diaspora. For example, in countries such as Italy, Russia and the United Kingdom, more polling stations will be opened in 2020 than in the 2019 parliamentary elections, due to the increase in the number of pre-registrations and Moldovan citizens in those countries. At the same time, in countries such as the USA, Spain, Turkey or Portugal, a lower number of polling stations is estimated than in 2019, largely due to the decrease in the number of pre-registrations for 2019 compared to the 2016 election.
Of the two criteria mentioned above, pre-registration, which can be done online (on www.alegator.md) or by written requests until 16 September 2020, is currently the only legal instrument available to voters to influence the decision of the authorities on number of polling stations. Equally important is the quality of the information collected by the MFAEI on the number of citizens abroad. A telling example is Ireland, where more voters than the number of officially registered citizens in this country (2,693 vs 1,987) took part in the 2019 vote. In this regard, the regular updating of these data and bringing them to the public could stimulate the activism of political parties and public associations in the diaspora in promoting prior registration.
The analytical note also presents the experience of other states that have recently held elections, against the background of the COVID-19 pandemic. In most cases, polling stations were opened only within diplomatic and consular missions, with voter turnout abroad being low. In Poland, the authorities introduced mail voting for the first time for all Polish voters, and physical voting abroad was only possible on the basis of prior registration.In conclusion, the ADEPT Association comes with some recommendations to the CEC, MFAEI and the Committee on Legal Affairs, appointments and immunities of the Parliament related to the clarification of some legal aspects regarding the criteria for setting up polling stations abroad and ensuring a transparent process of setting them up.