31 March 2016, Sofia, Bulgaria
On 31 March 2016 the Central Election Commission of the Republic of Bulgaria and the Public Council to CEC held a roundtable discussion entitled "The Electoral Process - Status and Perspectives". In the discussion representatives of the Council for Electronic Media / CEM/, Commission for Protection of Personal Data / CPPD/, Parliamentary Secretary to the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for European Funds, economic policy experts from the Committee on Legal Affairs at the National Assembly, General Directorate "Civil Registration and Administrative Services" at the Ministry of Regional Development and Public Works, "Information Services" Plc, as well as representatives and experts from non-governmental organizations /NGOs/, including Bulgarians living abroad participated.
This is the first roundtable discussion which the CEC initiated jointly with the Public Council to meet public expectations for transparent management of electoral processes, publicity and accountability of bodies involved in the organization and conduction of elections. The roundtable discussion is a part of the initiatives for the 25th anniversary of the establishment of ACEEEO.
Within the roundtable discussion three panels were organized: the first one on informed voting; the second on organization and conduction of elections; the third on reporting the results of the vote.
The first panel focused on raising awareness of citizens to three major aspects: continuity of the process of explaining and increasing knowledge about basic rights and obligations; the importance of citizen participation in elections and increasing voter turnout; and the third aspect is the commitment of all institutions to ensure conditions for the drill of electoral rights of citizens.
The Central Election Commission reported that a campaign for the local elections and national referendum in 2015 started significantly earlier compared to previous years. The campaign was fought more intensely through the national media, which was confirmed by official data by one of the leading rating companies which indicate that the epistle has reached over 90% of citizens who have the right to vote.
There was a discussion about the role of other participants in electoral processes to raise the awareness of the citizens of candidates, political parties and the media. According to the analysis of a non-governmental organization, in the past 2 years the building an electoral culture and also an improvement of compliance with the norms of the law of media service providers were observed. Experts recommended a more active use of social media and other information channels, and pledged to present their ideas to the Central Election Commission. Representatives of the Council for Electronic Media /CEM/ noted that changes are needed in the Electoral Code in the part about pre- election campaign that will create opportunities for new creative approaches to inform the voter.
The second panel of the roundtable examined the role of polling stations in the organization of voting and in establishing results. All speakers shared a common understanding that members of polling stations should have a good theoretical and practical training on the implementation of election rules and they presented their ideas to optimize the training process of the polling stations.
The Chair of the Administrative Court Dobrich also participated in the discussion and expressed her opinion about the need for unification of jurisprudence with respect to matters of implementation of the election code.
In the third panel, questions were raised about how to count and fill sectional protocols and speakers discussed how to ease the process. Issues such as wider introduction of machine voting, simplification and improvement of result reporting processes, training of the members of polling stations and explanation of machine voting among citizens were also mentioned.