Bulgaria’s MPs passed at second reading on July 24 amendments to the Electoral Code that removes the requirement to use 6000 voting machines at the local elections due in autumn. The bill passed with 129 votes in favour, 69 opposed and one abstention.
Although initially the bill envisioned machine voting being used only in presidential and European Parliament elections, between the two readings it was amended to include Bulgarian Parliament elections as well.
The machine voting provision was only added to the Electoral Code in March, mandating the use of 3000 voting machines in the May 2019 European Parliament elections and double that number at the local polls.
But the Central Electoral Commission’s (CEC) analysis after the European Parliament elections noted that the deployment of voting machines – the first time they were used on a large scale in Bulgaria – created a number of difficulties, according to the government coalition MPs that tabled the bill.
The authors also pointed out the complexity of local elections – given that each municipality had its own set of candidates – would require each machine being set up individually, rather than loading the same software on all machines. Furthermore, they argued, machine voting cost much more compared to paper ballots, per vote cast.
Before the vote, MPs for the opposition socialists once again accused the government of using the amendments to “win [the elections] by forfeit.” In reply, GERB MP Alexander Ivanov said that the socialists were getting their excuses in early for the party’s next electoral defeat.
(Voting machine used in May 2019 European Parliament elections in Bulgaria. Screengrab from Bulgarian National Television.)