24-29 November 2009
Monitoring the first round of the presidential elections in the Republic of Romania offered an opportunity to study the Voter Registration system of the country. Meetings with different level officials of the Permanent Electoral Authority, visits to polling stations and studying the Romanian electoral law created the basis for the findings.
The Romanian legal system has separate laws on the parliamentary, presidential and local elections. Both the Law on the elections for the Chamber of Deputies and of the Senate (no. 373/2004) and the Law for the election of local public administration authorities (no. 67/2004) include provisions on electoral lists. Both laws designate as the mayors’ responsibility to draw up and update the permanent electoral lists “along with the computer-based population record services within the structure of the Ministry of Administration and of the Interior.”
The laws regulate the units of electoral lists (communes, villages, towns, municipalities, administrative-territorial subdivisions, streets) and the content of the lists (full name, personal code number, residence, denomination, serial number of the ID-paper and the number of the constituency).
Both laws describe how many copies he mayors have to produce of the electoral lists (three), how they have to make it sure, the voters can control their data, the parties can receive copies, complaints have to be managed. The law on the parliamentary elections mentions special lists, specifying those for the voters, who vote abroad, while the law on presidential elections specify additional lists for citizens, who changed address in three months prior to the elections. The parliamentary election law also describes the nature and use of Voter’s cards.
The legislative framework is detailed and deals with the most important aspects of voter registration, only the two double systems (civil register-voter register, ID-card-Voter’s card) seem to be less effective.
The Romanian authorities plan to replace the local registers by the National Electoral Register for the 2012 parliamentary elections.
The implementation of the legislative framework lays mainly with the local authorities, the mayors. As the Romanian public administration system is highly centralised, as the traditional French system, the success of the implementation depends on the competences and capacities of the local authorities and on the quality of co-operation between the local authorities and the regional offices of the Ministry of Administration and of the Interior, the Permanent Electoral Authority has limited influence on it.
The major problem the Romanian voter registration system faces is that of citizens living abroad. According to professional estimations two to three million Romanian citizens live and work abroad, mainly in Western and Southern Europe. These citizens are registered in their municipalities of origin, but have the right to vote at the diplomatic and consular representations of Romania, but only a small fraction (ca. 5%) of them uses this right. This fact makes the domestic voter registers highly inaccurate, and the validity proportions are also deformed.
Another technical problem is caused by the special polling stations system during the presidential elections. Voters being in other places than their residence, e.g. students or travelling citizens can vote at special polling stations at airports, railway stations and universities. As they can declare their intention to vote at the special polling stations on Election Day by a written declaration, election authorities cannot estimate the exact number of citizens voting at these stations and the administration of their balloting takes longer time with the declarations. The result is extremely long queues, waiting time, and citizens unable to vote at the end of Election Day.