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Court: Central Electoral Commission must introduce machine voting within six months

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Court: Central Electoral Commission must introduce machine voting within six months

In response to a case filed by former Reformist Bloc MPs Martin Dimitrov and Peter Slavov, the Sofia Administrative Court ordered the Central Electoral Commission (CEC) to secure voting machines as an alternative to voting by paper ballots for all voting sections by February 2019, i.e. several months before the May 2019 European Parliament elections, the Bulgarian news Agency said.

Under a provision in the Election Code, adopted in 2014, this option should have been available back for the March 26, 2017 parliamentary elections, after experimental machine voting at 500 sections at the end-2016 presidential elections exhausted opportunities for a postponement of its full-scale implementation.

Before last year's parliamentary elections, the Supreme Administrative Court ruled that machine voting should be available at all sections, but the CEC and the Government ran out of time and resources to organize it. A public procurement procedure for the voting machines failed.

Unless Parliament amends the Election Code to scrap or defer machine voting, it should be available at all sections for the European elections next year.

The Sofia Administrative Court judgment is appealable within 14 days. The CEC told mediapool.bg that it will appeal the judgment, arguing that it operates under the Election Code whereas the case is under the Administrative Procedure Code and that it cannot implement machine voting without launching a public procurement procedure for the machines.

CEC Spokesperson Tsvetozar Tomov explained on bTV Thursday morning that the MPs must change time limits in the Election Code so that voting machines could be procured for the sections at specialized establishments, the mobile sections and the sections abroad. The Commission has already requested such amendments, but the legislators have refused to comply.

mediapool.bg has quoted GERB MPs as saying: "Why go to all that trouble? If we decide to repeal machine voting, we must repeal electronic voting, too, because we can't cope with it, either, and this guarantees us protests and tensions."

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