In response to our call, the National Election Office (NVI) has initiated an important amendment to the electoral procedure, thereby restricting opportunities for electoral fraud. The government amended the relevant decree. HCLU welcomes the modification, as it results in the increased transparency of the elections and an increased level of protection for the right to vote. However, we hold that further modifications are necessary to prevent fraud.
In our letter to Dr. Ilona Pálffy, President of NVI, we drew attention to the grave risks of on-line voter registration procedure which do not require applicants to personally authorize the submission of their registration forms. Registration forms for registering a minority voter (which results in an inability to vote for party lists) or to register in an electoral district different from one’s own can all be submitted without either an electronic signature or using one’s own pre-authorized government services account. Moreover, these forms allowed applicants to specify an address where they would be notified about their registration on the minority electoral roll or in an electoral district distinct from their own. The risks were clear to us: this registration procedure was a golden opportunity for mass abuse. If someone were to acquire another's personal data which is easily obtained from normal daily business activities such as selling a car or renting a flat, registration forms could be submitted on their behalf and they could be fraudulently registered as minority voters. This would prevent them for voting for a party list or require them to vote far away from their permanent residence, thus preventing them from voting at all. Voters subject to such an abuse of the registration procedure would probably only learn at the polls that they have been victims of fraud because the letter of notification informing them about their successful registration had been mailed only to the address given by the person who registered them on their behalf.
As a result of our call, the decree amendment initiated by Dr Ilona Pálffy prevents the opportunity for this form of voting rights abuse:
‘As we reflected on the letter of HCLU, we gave it a second thought and asked the Minister of Justice to amend a decree so that voters always receive notification at their permanent address too, therefore if a registration form is submitted by someone else, voters will get to know about it,’ says Dr Ilona Pálffy, President of NVI, in Klub Rádió, a leading Hungarian radio channel.
After the modification of 28/2013. (XI. 15.) decree of the Ministry of Public Administration and Justice (KIM) we will be notified about any claim submitted in our name at our permanent address. This significantly improves on the safety of the registration procedure. Unlike before, abuse of the process will be detectable. Thanks to the modification, if someone abuses the registration procedure early enough, the victim of the fraud will be informed about it and can get herself deleted from the minority electoral rolls or withdraw the demand for the voting location submitted in her name. The obligatory notification delivered to the permanent address, introduced due to HCLU's letter, provides an additional assurance to the voter that she can exercise her electoral rights.
Nonetheless, we opine that although the modification can reduce fraud, it is an insufficient guarantee against abuse. Only doing away with the no-authorization online registration procedure can provide this guarantee. So long as the abusers can take advantage of the opportunity to register voters online without authorization as minority voters or as votes in a forlorn electoral district merely a few days before the election, the victims of the fraud will be notified by mail only after the election—too late for them to exercise their right to vote as they would choose.