DEMOCRACY VOLUNTEERS’ ELECTION OBSERVATION RAISES CONCERNS OVER SECRECY OF THE BALLOT AND FAMILY VOTING
An international team of 25 observers deployed throughout polling day to stations in Stockholm, Malmo, Gothenburg, Uppsala and Västerås. In total, the team observed over 250 polling stations across these locations. The team of observers was made up from the UK, Ireland, France, Spain, Germany, Austria, Norway, Greece, Denmark, Lithuania, Sweden and Canada. The Head of Mission was Dr John Ault – Director of the UK-based NGO, Democracy Volunteers.
Each observation was conducted in pairs and took between thirty and forty five minutes to allow for objective observation; the team of observers then agreed their opinions of the electoral process before submitting data electronically to the central team. The survey was conducted online so data was collected, and could be checked, live. The central team contacted observers during the day to ensure observation was as uniform as possible.
Overall, our observers found this to be a generally well run election. Access to voting was often clear and officials dealt relatively well with the process throughout the day.
However, as with a number of our other election observations, Democracy Volunteers are concerned by the substantial levels of ‘family voting’ we have observed in polling stations. Our observer teams saw ‘family voting’ in 46% of polling stations and in the vast majority of cases polling staff did not intervene to prevent the practice.
We consider this to be higher than the average of other European countries we have recently observed.
In addition, our teams were also concerned by the lack of secrecy surrounding the voting process. This is especially the case with the way voters select ballot papers. In many polling stations (66%) voters only took one ballot paper from those available (them being party specific) – thus it was possible to observe which party these voters were voting for.
Commenting, John Ault, Head of the Mission said, ‘On the whole this has been a well run election with voters having easy access to polls and in many cases the election has been of a high quality.
However, we are concerned about the significant level of family voting where women, older voters and the infirm can be guided or even instructed how to vote by another family member.
‘On the subject of the secrecy of the ballot. We are aware that Sweden is a very open society and this may affect attitudes towards the secrecy of voting. However, a key aspect of voting is that a voter should have their individual right to cast their own vote independently and without the interference, or even knowledge of another voter.
Although we appreciate many voters will not be concerned about this we feel this may be a way of suppressing some voters from freely choosing their own choice without the knowledge of others and we would recommend that the Swedish election authorities look at this as part of their own review in due course.’
(A final report of the observation will be made available to the election authorities in due course.)