Conclusions and recommendations following election observation of the Swedish general elections of 11 September 2022
VOS - the Association for Election Observation in Sweden observed the Swedish general elections of 11 September with 95 observers from 21 countries. This new initiative is co-founded by EPDE's Swedish member Swedish International Liberal Centre (Silc) as part of the “European voters - together for electoral integrity” project coordinated by the EPDE secretariat. The observers concluded that the Swedish system is transparent, and the observers were well received and had their questions answered. The situation in the polling stations was calm and tidy, although there were occasional queues due to the change in the rules. Some problems with the secrecy of the ballot remain, but on the whole the reform of the secured ballot tables is an improvement and a step in the right direction.
VOS – the Swedish Association of Election Observation (valobservation.se) conducted an election observation mission with 95 observers from 21 countries on election day. The election observers were from Sweden, Bolivia, Argentina, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Jordan, Venezuela, Egypt, Georgia, Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, Somalia, Lithuania, El Salvador, Moldova, Peru, Azerbaijan, France, Poland, and the United States. The mission visited 289 polling stations in four municipalities in Stockholm County, and two in municipalities in Norrbotten.
The observers note that the Swedish system is transparent and the election observers were well received and received answers to their questions. The situation in the polling stations was calm and tidy, although there were occasional queues due to the rule change. There are still some problems with the secrecy of the ballot, but on the whole the reform of screened ballot tables is an improvement and a step in the right direction.
The ballot table
We mainly saw three different plans of the polling stations.
(1) Ballot table inside the polling station
(2) Ballot table outside the polling station
(3) Shared ballot tables for several polling stations
(4) Room in a row
The election observers note that solution (1) was the one that worked best, both in terms of the secrecy of the ballot and in terms of queues. In the event that there were two or more ballot tables inside the polling station, it was even better. In general, the election observers' impression is that the reform has improved the situation, provided that it was well implemented. A problem that arose in polling stations of type (2) and (3) was what we have chosen to call the "mingle problem", i.e. that voters could freely mingle with each other after they had taken ballots and were about to enter the polling station, or stood in a queue at the polling station with their ballots in their hands. They also often showed their ballot papers to the person handing out envelopes at the door.
The observers recommend that the election committees ensure that voting always takes place along a clear line for one voter at a time (for example, as shown in the sketch below) in order to avoid ballot paper mingling. We also recommend that the envelopes are distributed before the ballot papers, possibly lying on the table between the ballot table and the voting screen along the line. In a system where the envelopes are distributed according to the ballot papers, there is always a situation where it is up to the voter to hide his or her vote.
Another solution, but which probably requires a change in the rules, is the "Norwegian solution", i.e. that the voter prepares his or her vote already at the screened ballot table and that the green screens are abolished. See sketch below.
To sum up, with regard to the reform and the secrecy of the ballot: Most of the premises were planned in such a way that the protection of the secrecy of the ballot had been strengthened, but in some places (especially where mingling took place) it had rather deteriorated.
This year, unlike last year, the early votes arrived on time and the poll workers had time to process them during the day. However, we saw on a couple of occasions that a poll worker alone handled the early votes. Votes should always be handled by at least two poll workers.
The table where voters cast their votes had a capacity to receive 50-60 voters per hour. During the lunch peak, a plateau was reached and then queues also arose outside the premises, i.e. in some cases between the ballot table and the polling station, with "mingling" as a result.
Group voting was less prevalent than in 2018 and poll workers were generally aware and made efforts to enforce this rule. Despite this, it was sometimes difficult for them to get the voters to follow their instructions, as the awareness is not always there among the voters. In particular, older people who may be used to voting together could be offended by being told. There is a need for clearer information and enlightenment on this.
In general, accessibility was good. In some rooms, however, a wheelchair user needs to notify in order to get help opening a special entrance. Queues are a problem from an accessibility perspective. Some election boards were proactive in allowing the elderly and others with special needs to jump the queue, but this was not a general routine.
Usually 0-15 minutes, but sometimes up to an hour. We clocked the queues and we asked people who came out of the venue after they had voted how long they had waited and how they felt about it. In general, voters were accepting, especially as some felt that there had been an improvement in the process in the polling station itself. "It was worth it. This is important," said one voter. An interesting detail is that the voters did not express any dissatisfaction when they were asked in English by our foreign observers. When they were asked in Swedish, they sometimes found that there was a deterioration compared to previous years. The queues were long but constantly moving forward, which was probably why there wasn't much frustration. Our impression is that the queuing problem can be averted with better planned premises and more ballot tables.
If you have any questions about our results and methods, please contact
Chairman Amanda Valentin 073 502 23 37
Read the full press release here: Parliamentary elections 2022 (in Swedish)
November 11, 2022