Voting to Iceland’s constitutional assembly voided by court

The Supreme Court of Iceland yesterday decided to declare the result of the country’s recent election to a constitutional assembly as void. The assembly was elected to make changes to the Icelandic constitution.

Most of the reasons given by the claimants were accepted by the court; among others that the voting had not been secret.

The Supreme Court made its decision at around 15.00 with the words, “Voting to the constitutional assembly on the 27th November 2010 is void”.

Following the 27th November national election, three people brought a case to court in December. The court’s final statement shows that many mistakes were made in the organisation of the election.

The court found it inappropriate that ballot slips had been numbered and barcoded; which made them theoretically too easy to trace back to an individual voter. The court also found it regretful that some polling stations had used cardboard partitions instead of traditional polling booths, which meant ballot papers could be seen over voters’ shoulders.

Four of the six judges found it inappropriate that voters were not permitted to fold their ballots in half; although two of the judges though that was not a problem.

The ballot boxes also came in for criticism, as it was not possible to lock them and it was possible to break them open with relative ease. Criticism was also levied on the fact that vote counting was not public and candidates were not allowed to watch in person.

The court declared that there is a legal precedent for a plebiscite being voided due to legal infringements made during the organisation process. In 1994 a vote in Helgafellsveit on the merging of municipalities was voided due to the fact that the ballot papers were too see-through.

What happens next is unclear. Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir, a supporter of the constitutional assembly, told RUV that the judgement does not criticise the assembly itself, only the way the voting was organised.

Althingi will debate the issue and two options the Prime Minister considers possible are that the election be run again or that parliament votes for the already-elected 25 candidates directly. She stressed that these are just two possibilities among many and that all will be looked into. She also said that the government and parliament will make sure not to inappropriately interfere in the public’s big opportunity to influence the future workings of the government and parliament.

The opposition Independence Party (which does not support the idea of a constitutional assembly at this time) believes that the court ruling is an indictment against the government’s ineptitude and that the Prime Minister should resign and call new elections.

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