The mission deployed 6 observers in three teams of two. These were registered with Finland’s Ministry of Justice, and accredited to observe across Finland. They made 41 separate observations in 40 polling stations across the greater Helsinki area, including both Helsinki and Espoo.
Each observation was conducted in pairs to allow for objective observation and the observers then agreed their opinions of the electoral process before submitting data to the central team. Each team was accompanied by a local member of staff who acted as both translator and driver.
The observations generally took between thirty and forty-five minutes per polling station as the observers were asked to ensure that they attempted to see the entire process, which included staff greeting electors on arrival at the polling station. This happened on every occasion.
The organisation of polling stations was well run across the area of observation, voters could clearly see how to access voting and staff were trained to manage the process.
Polls were open from 9am to 8pm and the teams were asked to observe an opening as well as a closing of a polling station and tour polling stations throughout the day.
Counting began almost immediately, based in the polling stations before results were transmitted to the central count for checking.
Overall the election was extremely well run. There are, however, some issues that the observer teams identified which are specific to the Finnish which will be discussed here.
On some occasions the secrecy of the voters ballot could not be entirely maintained because of the nature of the polling station. In some school buildings, booths had been placed against glass partitions as the back wall, which would normally assist secrecy. However, because these glass walls were reflective it was possible, if intended, to assess whom voters were supporting by looking at the wall which effectively acted as a mirror.
The other major issue which affected a significant number of voters, we estimate 5% of those observed by our teams, attended the wrong polling station in the first instance. This seemed to be because the polling station they assumed was their station was one which had been used for early voting. A number of polling staff had also identified that this was an issue and reported it to our observers.
However, this did constitute an inconvenience for a number of voters and all our teams reported this problem during the day.
- We recommend that local election authorities remind polling station staff about the placing of polling booths. These are normally sited so that the opening faces away from the public and towards a blank wall. When siting we recommend consideration of the nature of some buildings and how suited they are to the maintenance of the secrecy of voting.
- Although we are aware that the polling cards do generally give information about the voters’ respective polling station the level of confusion was surprising to the observer group. This appeared to be caused by the use of central polling stations (and for that matter any polling station) for early voting. Clarity in the documentation sent to the electorate might assist in the levels of confusion that observers identified.