Vote Recount Case Dismissed

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The Police Commissioner of West Iceland has dismissed a case against the staff of the Northwest Constituency’s election supervision committee, Vísir reports. The staff have received letters informing them of the decision. The letters state that new legislation, which took effect on January 1, makes it unclear whether the staff had broken the law by not resealing ballot boxes between the initial count and a recount of votes.

A recount changed results, which Parliament confirmed

A vote recount in the Northwest Constituency following the Parliamentary election on September 25, 2021 redistributed five of Parliament’s 63 seats. As a result, several candidates filed charges against election proceedings in the constituency. Evidence showed that the election supervision committee had failed to seal the votes after it had completed its initial count and had left them unattended, actions that constituted breaches of regulation. Police had fined election staff, who had refused to pay the fines.

A preparatory Credentials Committee was subsequently established (later succeeded by the actual Credentials Committee after parliament reconvened following a lengthy hiatus) to investigate these claims. Following weeks of discussions and a field trip to Hotel Borgarnes, the committee submitted its findings to Parliament last November. The Parliament then voted to confirm the election results in all constituencies, putting an end to the matter – except for the ongoing police investigation.

New law sows doubt about criminality of actions

West Iceland Police stated that the new election legislation that took effect this year is not sufficiently clear about the obligation to seal election data, though previous legislation had been. Therefore, the Police Commissioner considers there to be doubts about the criminality of the alleged violation.

Police Says No Indication Votes Were Tampered With, But Cannot Confirm

Hotel Borgarnes

Staff of Hotel Borgarnes walked in and out of the room where ballots were left unsealed and unsupervised after the initial count following the September 25 parliamentary election, Vísir reports. Votes in the Northwest Constituency were later recounted, ousting five politicians from their seats. West Iceland Police says there are no indications that votes were tampered with, but stated that security camera footage could not confirm that was the case.

The police investigation into the matter revealed that hotel staff entered the room where ballots were stored while election supervision staff was not present. Election staff had left the ballots unsealed and unsupervised between the first and second counts, both breaches of election regulation. Thirteen people have filed legal complaints with Parliament over the handling of votes in the Northwest Constituency.

Security camera footage from the room where ballots were stored shows hotel staff entering the room. The boxes containing the ballots are, however, not visible in the camera footage. Police have stated they believe it unlikely that the ballots were tampered with while election staff were away, but that they have no way of confirming that belief.

Election staff refuse to pay fine

The Chief of Police in West Iceland has issued fines to all members of the constituency’s election supervision committee due to the handling of election documents. The fines range between ISK 100,000 [$775, €667] and ISK 250,000 [$1,938, €1,666]. Vísir reports that at least two of the committee members do not plan to pay the fines. The media outlet’s sources also state that one committee member believes the first, and not the second vote count, should be considered valid.

Election Supervisors Fined as Investigation Continues

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A preparatory committee met in Borgarnes yesterday to investigate ballot papers in the Northwest Constituency, RÚV reports. Thirteen people have filed legal complaints over the election results in the constituency following the September 25 election, including five politicians who lost their seats after votes were recounted. Ballot papers were not sealed and were left unsupervised after the initial count, both breaches of regulation that have led some to wonder whether votes could have been tampered with.

Same number of unused ballot papers

Unused ballot papers were recounted yesterday by staff of the National Electoral Commission and the District Commissioner’s Office. The counting revealed that the number conformed with voting document records. Birgir Ármansson, chairman of the preparatory committee, stated that staff were working to “rule out all sorts of possibilities to try to get a holistic picture of what really happened.”

Read More: 13 Legal Complaints Filed Over Election 

The committee questioned staff at Hotel Borgarnes, where ballots were counted and stored, as well as Ingi Tryggvason, chairman of the constituency’s election supervision committee. All of these individuals had already been questioned by police. Birgir says the committee will continue to gather information in the coming days and could not tell reporters when its work would be completed.

Fines issued to election staff

The West Iceland Police department’s investigation of the matter is, on the other hand, complete. The Chief of Police has issued fines to Ingi and all other members of the Northwest Constituency’s election supervision committee, as a proposal for closing the case. According to RÚV, the fine is likely issued on the basis that ballots boxes were left unsealed after the initial count, though this is not confirmed.

According to RÚV’s sources, Ingi has been fined ISK 250,000 [$1,938, €1,666] while others on the committee were fined ISK 100,000 [$775, €667]. If the committee members refuse to pay the fine, the police must decide whether to issue an indictment, which would bring the case to court.

13 Legal Complaints Filed with Parliament Over the Elections

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Parliament has now published the 13 legal complaints that have been filed since the elections took place on September 25, RÚV reports. Most of the complaints originate from candidates who lost their seats due to a recount in the northwest constituency.

Shortcomings in the northwest

On Sunday, September 26, Iceland briefly celebrated a female-majority parliament – before a recount redistributed five of the parliament’s 63 seats and thereby invalidated what would also have been a landmark election in Europe.

Two days after the recount, two candidates filed charges against election proceedings in the northwest constituency on the basis that the election supervision committee had failed to seal the votes after it had completed the initial count. Furthermore, the two candidates complained that the committee had left the ballots unattended at Hotel Borgarnes after election staff went home.

The youngest parliamentarian … almost

As reported by RÚV this morning, parliament has published the now thirteen legal complaints that it has received regarding the elections. Five have been submitted by candidates who lost their seats due to the recount in the northwest constituency: Rósa Björk Brynjólfsdóttir, Karl Gauti Hjaltason, Guðmundur Gunnarsson, Hólmfríður Árnadóttir, and Lenya Rún Taha Karim – the latter of whom would have become the youngest parliamentarian in history at the age of 21 (22 days younger than Jóhanna María Sigmundsdóttir). The Chairman of the Pirate Party’s district council in the northwest, Magnús Davíð Norðdahl, also brought charges to parliament against the legitimacy of the election.

Besides the abovementioned charges, three residents of the northwest constituency – Sveinn Flóki Guðmundsson, Ólafur Jónsson, and Sigurður Hreinn Sigurðsson – also filed legal complaints, along with lawyer Katrín Oddsdóttir and economist Þorvaldur Gylfason. In his complaint, Þorvaldur argues that Ingi Tryggvason, Chairman of the Head Election Supervision Committee in the northwest constituency, had admitted to violating voting laws in statements to the media. Katrín Oddsdóttir maintains that the shortcomings of the election process in the northwest violated the citizenry’s right to free elections.

Rúnar Björn Hererra Þorkelsson, head of the NPA Centre (a support organisation for the disabled) also filed a complaint based, on the one hand, on the shortcomings of the count in the northwest and, on the other hand, on the fact that he, as a disabled person, had been prevented from casting a secret ballot in the Reykjavík south constituency.

Preparatory commission meets

A preparatory commission tasked with investigating the election held an open meeting earlier today. Trausti Fannar Valsson, Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Iceland, and Ragnhildur Helgadóttir, President of the University of Reykjavík, were invited as guests.

As noted by RÚV, Trausti Fannar told the commission that he could find no legal basis for banning the recount of votes during parliamentary elections but that the issue was whether or not laws had been violated during the recount. Ragnhildur stated that the decision rested with parliament: “There was a strong, democratic rationale for the clause being included in the Constitution at the time.”

It remains unclear when the preparatory commission will conclude its investigation.

Parliament to Decide Whether Revote is Necessary

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The National Electoral Commission of Iceland has not received confirmation from the Northwest constituency’s election supervision committee that the handling of ballots had been satisfactory, RÚV reports. A recount of votes in the constituency has been criticised for not following regulations, leading some to call for a revote. According to the constitution, it is Iceland’s newly-elected Parliament that must rule on whether the election results stand.

Read More: Two Politicians Call for Revote After Recount Shuffles MPs

Iceland held a Parliamentary election last Saturday, September 25. Election officials in the northwest constituency decided to do a recount of votes on Sunday as the ballot numbers were very close between MPs. The recount did not change the distribution of seats between parties, but ousted one MP each from the Social-Democratic Alliance, Left-Green Movement, Reform Party, Pirate Party, and Centre Party for another of their fellow-party members.

The results of the constituency’s recount differed greatly from that of the initial count, resulting in a different number of blank and spoiled ballots as well as differences in the number of votes for individual candidates. Ballots in the region were not sealed after the initial count and were left unattended (though in a locked room), and candidates were not informed before the recount began: both breaches of regulation. This has caused some to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the election and even call for a revote in the constituency.

Ball in Parliament’s court

Kristín Edwald, the director of the National Electoral Commission, stated that the Commission had requested confirmation from the northwest constituency that the ballots had been handled in a satisfactory manner. That confirmation has not been received, and the ball is now in the Parliament’s court to decide whether the election results will stand. Kristín referred to the 46th article of the constitution, which stipulates that the Alþingi itself decides whether members of parliament have been elected according to law.

Two Politicians Call for Revote After Recount Shuffles MPs

Two politicians will file charges against election proceedings in the northwest constituency during last Saturday’s Parliamentary election, RÚV reports. Votes in the constituency were not sealed after the initial count as required by law and were left at Hotel Borgarnes after election staff went home. Other breaches of regulation occurred during the recount, which redistributed five of the Parliament’s 63 seats and invalidated what would have been Europe’s first female-majority Parliament.

Election officials in the northwest constituency decided to do a recount of votes on Sunday as the ballot numbers were very close between MPs. The recount did not change the distribution of seats between parties, but ousted one MP each from the Social-Democratic Alliance, Left-Green Movement, Reform Party, Pirate Party, and Centre Party for another of their fellow-party members. The original count also had female candidates in 33 of 63 seats, which would have been Europe’s first female-majority Parliament. Female MPs were reduced to 30 in the recount, meaning women occupy 48% of the total seats, still a European record.

Demands revote in northwest constituency

Magnús Davíð Norðdahl, Pirate Party district chairman in the northwest constituency, told RÚV he plans to file an official charge against the election proceedings in the constituency. Magnús’ fellow party member Lenya Run Taha Karim, who would have been Iceland’s youngest-ever MP, was ousted from Parliament following the recount. Magnús says he will also file charges with the police due to the election proceedings in the constituency.

Magnús asserts there were serious flaws in the counting of votes in the northwest. Ballots were not sealed after the end of the first count, as required by law, but were left in a locked room at Hotel Borgarnes after counters went home. He also points out that the recount began without Pirate Party candidates being notified, and the chairman of the electoral commission did not approve a request to delay the recount until candidates arrived at the scene.

The recount resulted in a different number of blank and spoiled ballots as well as the number of votes for individual candidates. “Such working methods in the democratic process of elections and counting are completely unacceptable,” Magnús stated. He believes the only remedy is to redo voting in the constituency.

Wonders if votes were tampered with

Centre Party politician Karl Gauti Hjaltason, who was ousted by the recount for his fellow party member Bergþór Ólason, has also stated he will file charges with police against the election proceedings in the northwest constituency. “What happened there, how was this decision made? Where were the ballots while the election supervision committee was away? Did anyone have access to them. Was it possible that someone could have reached them? The police are the best-positioned to bring this to light in a neutral way,” Karl Gauti told RÚV. If there is any evidence votes could have been tampered with, the only appropriate measure would be a revote, he added.

Parliamentary Election Results: Progressive Party Gains Five Seats

The results of the 2021 Parliamentary election was announced shortly after 9:00 AM on Sunday. The current three-party coalition government keeps their majority, with 37 MPs out of the total 63. 

The coalition to negotiate further cooperation

Voting booths for the Parliamentary elections closed at 10 pm on Saturday, and the results were announced shortly after 9 am on Sunday. Katrín Jakobsdóttir’s coalition – comprising the Left-Green Movement, the Independence Party, and the Progressive Party – will keep their majority. 

The Progressive Party enjoyed the greatest success relative to the 2017 election, gaining 13 seats in Parliament (five more than four years ago) and earning 17.3% of votes. The Independence party remains the largest party in Parliament, with 16 seats and 24.4% of the votes. The Left-green party had 12.6% of the votes and eight seats in Parliament. That’s three fewer than the last election; two MPs had, however, left the party during the last term.

Before the election, the leaders of the three parties stated that if the government kept its majority, their first choice would be to negotiate further cooperation. The leaders iterated this intention during a panel discussion on RÚV on Sunday. 

A win for the People’s Party

Besides the Progress Party, the People’s Party gained two more seats in Parliament, relative to the 2017 election. The party now holds six seats in Parliament. The Reform Party (Viðreisn) also gained an extra seat, now holding five seats compared to the previous four. The Pirates and the Social Democrats have six seats each.

The Centre Party, led by the former Chairman of the Progressive Party Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, suffered a heavy defeat on Saturday; the party lost four seats, now holding only three seats in parliament. Sigmundur Davíð was the only leader whose party has seats in Parliament who was absent from the RÚV panel on Sunday.

Polls had the socialist party taking a seat in Parliament, but they received only about 4% of the vote , which did not suffice to breach the 5% barrier to win a seat in Parliament. 

So close to a female majority

When the results of the elections were confirmed, news quickly spread around the world that Iceland had become the first European country to elect a female-majority Parliament. The celebrations were short-lived, however, as a recount on Sunday produced a result just short of historic.

The initial count had female candidates winning 33 seats, but the recount saw three seats ceded to men. As it stands, female candidates now occupy 30 seats of Parliament’s 63. This tally was previously reached during parliamentary elections in 2016. Nonetheless, with women constituting 48% of the total seats, this is the highest percentage for women lawmakers in Europe.