Parliament’s Committee on Legal Policy and Judiciary Recommends Adopting at First Hearing Draft Law 6240 Aimed to Enfranchise IDPs in Elections
On January 17, the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Legal Policy and Judiciary adopted a decision recommending the Rada to pass at the first parliamentary plenary hearing Draft Law No 6240 on Amendments to Certain Laws of Ukraine Related to Electoral Rights of Internally Displaced Persons and Other “Mobile” Groups of Ukrainian Citizens.
If the Draft is adopted into law and becomes effective before the 2019 parliamentary elections, IDPs and economic migrants will be able to vote in parliamentary elections not only for the party list (which they are entitled to under the current law), but also for candidates running in single-mandate districts under the majoritarian (first-past-the-post) component of the parallel electoral system. IDPs and mobile groups will further be entitled to vote in the 2020 local elections at their current place of residence. The absence of a possibility to register a temporary voting address effectively barred all IDPs from taking part in the 2015 local elections. This was widely criticized including internationally by the OSCE/ODIHR and Council of Europe.
Draft Law No 6240 was registered in the Verkhovna Rada on March 27, 2018. It was sponsored by 24 MPs representing the Petro Poroshenko Bloc, People’s Front, Samopomich, Batkivshchyna, Oleh Liashko’s Radical Party, and the Opposition Bloc. The bill was prepared by the Group of Influence (former CVU-Donetsk) and Civil Network OPORA, in consultations with the Central Election Commission, MPs, Ukraine’s internally displaced community and other key stakeholders.
Under the current laws governing elections in Ukraine, citizens vote in elections at polling stations to which their voter addresses are assigned; their voter addresses are determined based on their registered places of residence. Changing one’s registered place of residence, or, so-called propiska, and, subsequently, one’s voter address, is burdensome and a significant barrier for Ukraine’s displaced and mobile communities.
In addition, voters can temporarily (i.e. for a specific election) change their voting place from the election precinct they are assigned to and vote at a polling station at their actual place of residence. To do so, a voter must submit a written application to a Register of Voters Maintenance Body (RMB) no later than five days before an election, accompanied by supporting documents that demonstrate the need to change one’s election precinct/place of voting. The procedure for temporarily changing the place of voting is less cumbersome than changing the residence (“propiska”) and is widely used for national elections by internal labor migrants and other similar categories of voters who could not otherwise vote where they currently reside. However, the current legal framework does not foresee that voters can register a temporary voting address for local elections or for single mandate constituency in parliamentary elections. It requires that they vote in the communities where they have residence registration. Since IDPs, as a general rule, have residence registration in areas currently not controlled by the Ukrainian government, this effectively disenfranchised them from voting in these races, including for the mayor or the local council at their current location.
The Draft Law No 6240 seeks to enfranchise the millions of Ukrainians who are displaced as a result of conflict or who voluntarily reside in places that differ from their registered places of residence.
Key aspects of the Draft Law:
- any voter will be able to change their voter address to current/actual place of residence by submitting a written application to the Voter Register Maintenance Body (RMB) whose jurisdiction expands to the territory of the voter’s current/actual place of residence;
- for the purposes of preventing electoral tourism, an application for changing one’s voting address must be filed with the relevant RMB no later than five days following the official start of the election process (i.e. before the official registration of candidates); no changes to one’s voter address will be allowed until the end of the specific election;
- a written application for changing voting address must be accompanied by one of the documents from the list of eligible supporting documentation mentioned in the Draft Law that can be used to prove current place of residence. The documents among other includes employment contracts, private entrepreneur certificates and the person’s IDP certificate;
- voters will be allowed to change their voter address through a written application to the RMB no more than once within a 180-day period.
IFES, as part of its efforts to strengthen democratic progress in Ukraine, supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the UK government, facilitated a range of activities designed to give a voice to Ukraine’s IDPs and to strengthen their ability to communicate their aspirations and desires at the national level. Additionally, IFES provided support to legislative deliberations and technical expertise to the drafting efforts with an eye to international standards and good practice in the area of IDP enfranchisement.
The Legal Policy and Judiciary Committee’s decision is a positive step towards enfranchising IDPs and internal migrants in all the elections regardless of their place of residence registration, in line with the international standards and best practices. Now the focus will be on the Rada to adopt the Draft Law No 6240 into law well in advance of the 2019 parliamentary elections and the 2020 local elections. The Draft Law has limited to no effect on the ongoing presidential electoral process since IDPs and internal migrants already have the right to temporarily change their voting address and vote at a polling station at current location under the legal framework governing the 2019 presidential election.