The Anti-Corruption Fund (ACF) has filed a report to the Sofia City Prosecutor’s Office (SCP) about cybercrimes that have taken place during the election of six judges to the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) in June 2022.
The manipulation of the electronic voting system first became public knowledge in an article in Capital Weekly from January 2023. The article cited the findings of a cyber investigation ordered in the course of the proceedings of the case, initiated after three of the SCJ candidates challenged the election results. These are the judges Atanas Atanasov, Vladimir Valkov, and Tatyana Zhilova, as well as the judge from Lukovit Vladislava Tsarigradska, who nominated a candidate for a council member.
Despite the evidence of serious manipulations published six months ago, there is no information that the Prosecutor’s Office has initiated an investigation.
The expert report, accepted in the course of the proceedings without being challenged, identified “various anomalies” in the use of the e-voting system: multiple voting from the same IP address; IP addresses from which votes were cast dozens of times; consecutive voting with different voters’ slips. In all these cases, voting was done from IP addresses belonging to courts, although the system allows judges to vote from their mobile phones and home computers.
The most flagrant case is one in which around 200 votes were cast within 3 minutes in the morning hours on a Saturday (25.06.2022) from the same IP address of the Supreme Administrative Court.
The expert conclusions are complemented by reports of judges being unable to exercise their right to vote on election day because electronic voting had already taken place from their accounts. For example, Judge Tanka Tsoneva of Sofia District Court reported an inability to vote using the link and password provided to her. A check of the complaint revealed that Judge Tsoneva’s slip had already been used to vote, apparently by someone other than her.
“The cyber investigation and the collected written testimonies point to the conclusion that an unauthorized person had illegally accessed the system and used someone else’s access data to exercise the active right to vote,” said Andrei Yankulov, senior legal advisor to the ACF.
The cyber investigation also established that the audit logs of the database and the tables where the voting results are stored have not been activated during the election days. For this reason, it was impossible to verify whether any deletions, modifications, or additions of votes, one of the requirements by law for certifying the results of judicial elections, had been made.
“The information mentioned above leads to the conclusion that the audit logs of the database and the tables in which the voting results are stored were not activated deliberately,” adds Andrey Yankulov. “This has made it impossible to store data from the information system that should have been stored and, if necessary, checked for unauthorized access to the system. The impossibility to carry out a check is equivalent to invalidation of the election.”
The cyber investigation further established that several interim backups were made of the various information system databases, including the voting results tables, during election day.
This violates the rules for electronic voting and, in practice, means that the secrecy of the vote was not protected, and people who had full access to the system could have found out which judge voted for which candidate.
Despite the allegations of significant voting irregularities and manipulation, in February 2023, a five-member joint panel of judges from the Supreme Court of Cassation and the Supreme Administrative Court ruled that “the election of the six members of the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) from the judicial quota was legal and valid, no irregularities of such a degree were found so as to invalidate it.”
“We believe that the evidence thus presented in our signal to the Prosecutor’s Office is sufficient to initiate criminal proceedings,” said Boyko Stankushev, director of the Anti-Corruption Fund.
“The evidence in the report raises suspicions of serious violations and manipulations that have potentially altered the results of the election of judges to the Supreme Judicial Council. The issue is of high public importance, but there has been no adequate institutional response so far. Therefore, we are filing a report and will inform the public in due course about the results.”
ACF’s report to the Prosecutor’s Office is attached to this press release.