Following the 25 April Albanian elections, there have been a number of concerns over the high number of invalid votes registered following the completion of the counting process.
As of yesterday, there were a total of 83,020 invalid votes, equivalent to 5% of the votes cast, or enough to fill as many as eight mandates in parliament. This number is enough to have potentially changed the outcome of the entire election.
It’s believed that one of the reasons for the high number of invalid votes is the ballot paper, described as confusing and complex, especially for older voters. The ballot paper didn’t include the name of party candidates, rather it had a number for each one, and voters were required to remember the number of the person they wanted to vote for, prior to going into the polling booth.
Unfortunately, it’s not easy to ascertain how many of the invalid ballots became so, due to this and how many were protest votes or another reason entirely.
The format of the ballot paper was previously opposed by the PD, who argued that voters would not be able to remember the numerical ranking of candidates.
On the other hand, on Monday there were accusations from political entities that the high number of invalid votes comes as a result of the ease created by the ballot format for vote manipulation. They said it was easy for a ballot to be made invalid by someone adding an additional X after a vote had been cast. Some political actors published videos and photos of alleged tampering. Reports have been made to the Central Election Commission and the matters are under investigation.
The suspicions increased after it was found that the number of invalid votes in unit number 10 in Tirana, where the electronic counting of votes took place, was only 120 votes or about 1%.
Invalid ballot figures in the April 25 elections also represent a significant increase compared to those of previous elections.
In the 2017 parliamentary elections, the percentage of invalid votes was 1.98%, or 31,898 votes.
In the 2013 elections, the figures were even lower, with 1.39% of invalid votes or 24,279 votes.
The CEC has not yet commented on these facts, but an in-depth analysis would be needed to understand the causes and consequences of the phenomenon, as well as how it could have been avoided.