Austria’s repeat second round of presidential election conducted in an efficient and professional manner, measures recommended to strengthen election administration and postal voting
While concluding that the 4 December 2016 repeat second round of the Austrian presidential election was professionally and efficiently administered and the legal framework provided a sound basis for the conduct of democratic elections, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) recommended in its final report that the authorities take measures for further improvements, in particular by enhancing the organization of postal voting and by ensuring that all eligible voters have equal opportunities to take part in the election.
The report, published on 17 March 2017, notes that the cancellation of the initial 22 May election results, and the later postponement of the repeat second round due to inadequacies with postal voting envelopes, may have detracted from an otherwise high level of public confidence in the election administration. The comprehensive measures undertaken by the electoral authorities to address identified shortcomings were positively appraised by the ODIHR expert team.
The recommendations for further improvements include establishing standardized procedures for depositing, collecting and delivering postal votes, as well as the handling and storage of returned ballots. It is also recommended that the voting materials be re-designed to help reduce the number of invalid votes.
According to the report, the election boards observed were well prepared and worked transparently and collegially. The report suggests, however, that the authorities consider ways to ensure that sufficient numbers of election officials are recruited, including through broadening membership beyond party-nominated persons. To safeguard the impartiality of the election administration, it is recommended that consideration be given to restricting elected officials from directly serving on election boards.
The report also points out that the parliament promulgated legislation to create a unified centralized voter register, as previously recommended by ODIHR, and notes ODIHR’s readiness to assist further reform processes, including the follow-up of its recommendations.