Bulgaria’s Electoral Committee ‘Swallows’ BGN 13,577… And Machine Vote As Well

Atanas Tchobanov

From May 25 to May 28, twenty members of Bulgaria’s Central Electoral Commission (CEC) consumed food and hot drinks for the significant for Bulgaria amount of BGN 13,577.57 or BGN 169 per person per day. This becomes clear from the shorthand notes of the electoral body. The National Assembly’s (Parliament) Food Complex, known for its subsidized by the budget low prices for a number of “gastronomic pleasures”, supplied the food.

After Election Day, the CEC did not update its site with election results, which stood at 95% for two days. Obviously, these remaining five percents have exhausted the electoral body, which has needed the support of large volumes of food and hot drinks.

Nevertheless, the results of this intense brain and stomach activity proved to be ambiguous and full of errors, particularly in the reporting of the machine vote that was available in 3,000 voting polls for the European Parliament elections.

Where are the machine votes and the preferences?

As revealed by an analysis of the Institute for Public Environment Development, based on data from 12,032 voting polls, 1,139 voting polls had not taken into account the preferences from the machine vote. All parties and coalitions involved in the elections are affected.

Bivol analyzed the open data with the results of the European elections published by the CEC on their official page and found that there is a serious mistake in them. There are 20 columns in the votes.txt file, while in reality, the columns are 28. This makes it impossible to explore automatically the file.

It also became clear that a large number of machine votes have not been reported in the final results. Apart from this, the controls laid down in the CEC methodology had not functioned in many voting polls. The protocols revealed either a larger or a smaller number of ballots than the delivered ones.

To research this data, we combined it with the online version of the protocols available on the CEC site and created a searchable database where suspicious results can be compared with the published PDF versions of the election protocols. The search engine can be found at https://elections.bivol.bg.

The CEC admits that it has not taken into account the machine vote and secretly changes the results

Bivol sent questions to the CEC about the detected discrepancies, which were answered ten days later. We understand from the answer that the description of the README.txt file in the open data has been corrected to reflect properly the presence of 28 columns in the protocols.txt file. Additionally, there is an admission in its letter that there are voting polls in which the machine votes and preferences have not been accounted for.

This letter has the force of a formal acknowledgment that the CEC had not taken into account the results of the machine vote, in the presence of obvious and unquestionable errors for which there are accurate and correct data – a receipt and a flash drive that allow their correction.

In other words, we have a failure by CEC to do the job it has been tasked with.

Nowhere in the letter, there is information on the number of voting polls with unaccounted for machine votes and the number of these votes. This becomes partly clear from the CEC Protocol 64 of June 12, 2019.

Therefore, the number is “somewhere in the vicinity 70 voting polls”. However, the more interesting thing that emerges is that they had to do an open data update in the votes.txt file, which should contain the total number of votes – paper plus machine ones, but the answer to our questions says nothing about such an update. There is no information about this update on the CEC site either and this is where the official data is published.

At some point during the meeting to discuss the answers that should be sent to Bivol, the microphone had been turned off and the discussions had continued without shorthand notes. This is a common occurrence in the CEC and happens when the conflict between two formed groups in the Committee is such that they cannot reach a common decision. The discussion had largely revolved around what wording to use to avoid a total embarrassment such as replacing “there are really voting polls where…” with “even though there are voting polls…” and underscoring that the errors have in no way influenced and changed the final outcome of elections.

In summary, there had been 77 voting polls in which the machine vote had not been counted and 1,119 voting polls in which preferences had not been counted. They are really that many, not “even though”. The number of these unaccounted for machine votes and preferences remains unclear and not analyzed, but this is yet to be determined after the CEC has finished uploading the new data. By the time of the editorial closure of this article, the readme.txt file was changed and the files.txt and preferences.txt files were identical to the files posted on May 29.

Eating, drinking and accommodations with taxpayer money without declaring them

Besides a salary of BGN 5,000-6,000 and a daily allowance of BGN 169 (against the backdrop of a social pension for old age of BGN 125.58 a month), the members of the CEC are entitled to free accommodation in Sofia. This is the case of Georgi Bahanov and Yordanka Gancheva from the quota of the ruling Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) party and trusted people of its leadership.

Bahanov and Gancheva are mandated to declare to the Committee for Combatting Corruption and the withdrawal of illegally acquired property (KPKONPI) (sic) that they had been using real estate not owned by them, but they have not.
Bahanov’s declaration: https://register.caciaf.bg/2018/AC46E746-63FB-44F7-A1D0-CC07B4C65CEE88214.xml

Gancheva’s declaration: https://register.caciaf.bg/2018/AEA08477-463F-4B58-95B2-C354F3A6757C88226.xml

The meeting protocols, published in Bulgarian by Bivol, show that Gancheva and Bahanov, themselves, reported their housing needs and all incidental expenses and participated in the vote of the CEC to meet these expenses.


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