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Vote count mistakes mapped out

30.09.2021 - 11:23
Mynd með færslu
 Mynd: RÚV
Ingi Tryggvason, chairman of the Northwest Iceland election supervision committee, wrote in his report to the national electoral commission that he regrets the mistakes that were made in the count and believes that the recount served to rectify the mistakes and that the outcome is correct.

The lead Northwest candidate for Samfylkingin (the Social Democrats) and Karl Gauti Hjaltason, who dropped out in the recount, want the original result to stand, the lead Píratar (Pirates) candidate wants a new vote altogether. One lawyer tells RÚV this may now be the likely outcome.

The report to the national elections body recounts the following mistakes: 

The total number of votes was two higher in the recount, due to a data entry error first time round. 17,668 votes were processed instead of 17,666. 

There were 394 blank ballots in the first count and 12 fewer in the recount. Ingi says this is because 11 were invalid ballots that had mistakenly been counted as blank. One had been counted as invalid but was in fact valid. 

In the recount, there were nine fewer votes for Viðreisn (the Reform Party). Eight should have been piled with votes for Sjálfstæðisflokkurinn (the Independence Party) and one should have been piled with Framsóknarflokkurinn (the Progressive Party) votes. There were ten more votes for Sjálfstæðisflokkurinn; eight mistakenly piled with Viðreisn and two with other parties. “All other changes are because one vote here and there had been placed wrongly in bales of ballots,” the report says. 

Minutes of the supervision committee meeting note that committee members went home at 07.35 on Sunday morning and that Ingi returned to the Borgarnes hotel four hours later. The counting room was locked in the meantime but not formally sealed like in other constituencies. The committee in the Southwest Iceland constituency, for example, even went as far as changing the locks on the counting room so that there was only one key, which the chairperson kept at all times. 

The point about whether the room was formally sealed is taking on enormous significance this week and could decide whether or not the election in Northwest Iceland needs to be re-run. Such a seal, of a type regularly used by police, breaks in half if the door is opened, making it immediately obvious if someone has entered the room, or attempted to tamper with the seal. 

Around the time Tryggvi returned, the head of the national electoral commission got in touch to say there was an extremely small difference in vote numbers for the equalisation seats in the northwest and the south. A decision was taken to recount votes for Viðreisn based on this information from Reykjavík and the party was found to have nine too many votes. The northwest constituency committee therefore decided to recount all votes. 

The mistakes revealed in the recount led to five equalisation MPs losing their seats in favour of five other candidates from the same parties. The recount is not believed to have been inaccurate, but the fact that the ballots were left unattended and unsealed for at least four hours is a breach of electoral law that could, potentially, lead to a new vote. 

Lawyer Gísli Tryggvason says he finds it quite likely this fact alone will lead to the nullification of the vote and a new election in the northwest. He points to the Supreme Court of Iceland decision a decade ago to nullify the result of the election to the constitutional council as precedent. There, the court pointed out numerous, small technical problems that could serve to undermine the election process—even though the outcome was not controversial and fraud was not suspected. This case is clearly similar, he believes. Gísli was one of the people deemed to have been wrongly elected in that court decision ten years ago. 

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