Article 7 of the Constitution of the Republic of Armenia stipulates that elections shall be held by secret ballot. In its turn, the RA Electoral Code not only stipulates that secret ballot is an obligation by its Article 6, but also ensures its effective implementation by other provisions. However, one of the provisions of the Code ensuring the secret ballot gives rise to problematic misinterpretation.
It particularly refers to Article 68 of the Electoral Code, Clause 6 of which stipulates that “In case of ballot envelopes containing additional notes, the ballot paper shall not be taken out of the envelope, the ballot envelope shall immediately be excluded together with the ballot paper in it”. However, this formulation does not clearly specify whether the ballot paper and the envelope shall be excluded or otherwise counted if the ballot envelope contains another paper with a note apart from the ballot paper.
The undersigned non-governmental organizations consider that this ambiguity may open up a range of possibilities for controlling the voters and violating the principle of secret ballot. In particular, an opportunity arises to force most vulnerable voters to put pieces of paper in the ballot envelopes that would disclose their identity. Consequently, due to this mechanism, it will be clear how these voters voted during the tabulation of votes.
Today the RA Central Electoral Commission is due to give an official explanation on how the formulation “ballot envelope containing additional notes” in Clause 6 of Article 68 of the Code shall be interpreted.
Hence, based on the goal of ensuring secret ballot, we call on the Central Electoral Commission to clarify that the formulation “ballot envelope containing additional notes” shall also refer to those ballot envelopes which contain pieces of paper that are not necessarily ballot papers containing additional notes.
We believe that otherwise a wide range of possibilities for controlled voting will be opened up, and other mechanisms ensuring secrecy of ballot stipulated by the Electoral Code will become meaningless.
Also note that the issue in question was clearly defined in the previous Electoral Code, and the ballot envelopes containing additional papers were immediately excluded.
“Independent Observer” Public Alliance (on behalf of the following organizations):
- -“Union of Informed Citizens”
- -Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly Vanadzor Office
- -Goris Press Club
- -Martuni Women’s Community Center
“Asparez” Journalists’ Club
Foundation Against the Violation of Law