Another potentially problematic issue concerning the voting process is the BBC’s approval of unstamped ballots (those not bearing the BBC stamp.) The voting material (ballots and envelops) should be homogeneous, including a clear specification of what is an invalid vote. The approval of unstamped ballots was a contested issue during the 2017 constitutional referendum; at that time, the legislation mandated the invalidation of unstamped ballots, while the SBE decided to count the unstamped ballots contrary to the requirements in the law. This increases the risk of ballot (envelope) stuffing and violations during election day since other safeguard measures such as the watermark on ballots are not a replacement for the BBC stamp as they are not a guarantee that the ballot was not brought in from outside the polling station. This undermines the right of voters to an accurate assessment of the results of the ballot.39 Stamping of the ballots or envelopes is a common practice in Venice Commission member states and is an additional safeguard that one person is not able to put more than one ballot into the ballot box simultaneously, by ensuring that additional ballots cannot be brought into a polling station, i.e. stamped with another polling station’s stamp or not stamped with a polling station stamp. Following the March amendments, the Law on the Basic Provisions on Elections and Voter Registers (Article 98), now requires that unstamped envelopes are to be approved. Article 77 still requires BBCs to stamp all ballots, while Article 68 requires the SBE to provide, inter alia, stamps for BBCs in order to ensure that the votes are not declared null and void. The new paragraph added in March to Article 101 if interpreted literally, states that ballot papers sent by the authorised electoral boards and having water marks of the SBE but that are not stamped on their back due to the neglect of the BBCs are to be considered invalid; however, practice seems to interpret it as allowing the counting of these ballots. Moreover, the legal framework does not include any provisions establishing a procedure and clear and objective criteria for the determination of whether an unstamped ballot was unstamped due to negligence or some other reason such as fraud, leaving room for arbitrary application. The Venice Commission and ODIHR recommend that the legislation ensure respect for the obligation in national law to stamp ballots and envelopes.
39 Cf. Code of Good Practice in Electoral Matters, par. 26.