Up to 2 554 voting stations are at risk of controlled and bought votes, according to a new ACF survey

Today, the Anti-Corruption Fund foundation (ACF) presented the results of the first part of its study “Broken Legitimacy: prevalence and impact of controlled and purchased voting

in Bulgaria”.

The study examines the results of all parliamentary and local elections in the period from 2013 to 2019  in order to outline the size and impact of controlled and bought votes in Bulgaria. The analysis also identifies a list of sections at risk across the country, which experts presented in the form of an interactive map. The leading author of the analysis is the Maria Karayotova, doctor of criminology, and the interactive map was developed by Dr. Nikola Tulechki from the association “Data for good”.The experts identified the sections at risk based on four different indicators:- atypically higher electoral participation in a given section compared to the registered electoral participation in the municipality;- atypically higher result for the leading party in a given section compared to the result of the party in the whole municipality. In this model, an extreme value of the winner’s result becomes even more questionable in cases in which in a previous parliamentary election another political player won the majority of the votes in the section;- great deviations in the electoral activity in a given section in two consecutive election years;- sharp change in the political affiliations of the voters in a given section in two consecutive election years – a sharp increase or decrease in the votes for a given political party in the section.According to the most conservative estimate, the total number of votes cast in the 780 sections at risk amounted to 170,000 votes, or about 5% of the votes cast. This assessment includes only the sections that researchers identified as particularly risky based on three or four different indicators. If the evaluation includes all sections in which deviations were registered on just one of the criteria, the results jump to 2554 sections with nearly 690,000 votes or about 18.7% of the total number of votes cast.

The analysis of the 2015 local elections shows that 247 382 votes were cast in the sections where risk was identified, which is 7.5% of the total votes cast. The local elections in 2019 saw a slight decline, with the number of votes cast in risk sections falling to 186,944 and the percentage to 6%. The ACF experts note that the models show deviations in electoral behavior in certain sections, but do not guarantee that controlled voting or purchased vote is the only reason for the extreme values. There are economic, social, and political factors, such as the ethnicity of the population or the presence of a strong political figure in the community, that the models cannot take into account at present. Despite these limitations, the statistical models used make it possible to identify with sufficient accuracy sections throughout the country with a consistently higher risk of controlled and bought votes. The maps are available here. Via the map one can find the location of each of the sections at risk and the results of the voting in them in the parliamentary elections in 2014 and 2017.”With the map and the analysis, we want to achieve two things: to draw the public attention to the sections where there is a higher risk of buying votes. We believe that this additional public attention can have a deterrent effect on participants in the process. We also want to guide the law enforcement authorities and help them effectively counteract vote manipulation”, said Boyko Stankushev, director of the ACF. The next step in the project is the analysis of the data on controlled and bought vote in the upcoming parliamentary elections in April 2021. The final report will be presented publicly in the weeks after April 4, 2021.

Project “”Broken Legitimacy: prevalence and impact of controlled and purchased voting  in Bulgaria”  is implemented by the Anti-Corruption Fund foundation with the financial support of Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway under the Financial Mechanism of the European Economic Area (EEA FM) 2014-2021 in a total amount of EUR 9,990.The main goal of the project is to improve the public debate in Bulgarian society about the size and impact of bought and controlled voting on election results and to identify risk sections to assist law enforcement agencies in their efforts to counter vote buying.

 

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