Bulgaria’s Central Election Commission (CEC) has rejected the sole bid to rent voting machines to it for the March 26 2017 elections, the commission said on February 25.
This means that in spite of a Supreme Administrative Court ruling that voting machines should be available at all 12 000 polling stations as an alternative to ballot papers, it is now practically impossible that this ruling will be complied with.
A report by a special committee discussed at a commission meeting on Saturday said that the sole company to submit an application to supply the machines could not meet the technical requirements.
The CEC had specified that the machines should be delivered by March 10 and the required software should be installed on them by March 17.
But the company that submitted the bid proposed delivering the machines only by March 20 because the machines were newly-produced and the software would be installed in the course of production.
The company also would not transport the machines to the foreign countries, nor provide technical support personnel, where there will be polling stations for Bulgaria’s March early parliamentary elections.
The bid proposed providing training only for regional, not sectional election commissions.
Bulgarian National Television reported CEC members as saying that the absence of voting machines would not jeopardise the legal validity of the March elections.
The issue of voting machines has been the source of running controversy throughout February.
Caretaker Prime Minister Ognyan Gerdzhikov has criticised the CEC, which had made provision only for 500 machines – a shortfall of 12 500, counting the need for spare machines – for allowing months to go by without approaching Parliament to amend the law to remove the requirement for machines, while the CEC also had made no move to call a tender for the machines.
The tender offer by the CEC, for which the deadline passed this week, provided an upper limit of 15 million leva for renting the machines. The CEC earlier had decided against attempting to buy the required number of machines on the grounds that the cost would be prohibitive.
Gerdzhikov has admitted that a lack of machines at all polling stations could put the election at risk of a challenge in the Constitutional Court to declare the election invalid.
Theoretically, were the election taken to court and were the Constitutional Court to overturn it, the legal requirement in the Electoral Code for voting machines at all polling stations would remain in place for the subsequent elections – because there is no Parliament to amend the law.