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Croatia’s Constitutional Court says Electoral Commission must ensure right to vote to Covid patients

ZAGREB, July 3 (Hina) – The Constitutional Court finds that it is not unacceptable to rule out the possibility that people with coronavirus come to polling stations on Sunday, but says the State Electoral Commission has the duty to make sure that all citizens have the possibility to exercise their right to vote.

Under Article 16 of the Constitution, it is not unacceptable to exclude the possibility that people diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2 or any other communicable disease, or who are in self-isolation, come to polling stations, the court said in a press release on Friday.

However, it added, those people are entitled to demand the exercise of their right to vote under rules on voting outside polling stations which are adapted to the potential danger of infection and aligned with demands on health safety and the protection of other participants in elections whereby, in articles 58 and 69, the Constitution vouches for protection of health.

Therefore, the court found, the State Electoral Commission has the duty to ensure in its instructions and/or recommendations for the parliamentary election, in line with its powers, the possibility that all eligible Croatian citizens exercise their constitutional and legal right to vote, including those diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2 or another communicable disease, who are in self-isolation and request so.

The Commission, the court said, has the duty to ensure the above without delay by adapting rules on voting outside polling stations in cooperation with the Croatian Institute of Public Health, seeing to the protection of the health of everyone participating in the election.

A number of constitution experts, politicians and NGOs have warned recently that the Electoral Commission’s exclusion of people with the novel coronavirus unconstitutionally and disproportionately restricts the human right to vote, but the Commission stuck by its instruction, citing protection of health.

The Electoral Commission (DIP) said on Friday that people infected with the novel coronavirus would be allowed to vote by proxy in Sunday’s parliamentary election.

“Anyone who has been diagnosed with coronavirus infection will be able to vote with the help of another person of their confidence, who will fill in the ballot as instructed by the infected person,” DIP spokesman Slaven Hojski told a press conference after the Constitutional Court said that DIP had a duty to ensure for infected people to be able to exercise their right to vote.

Hojski explained that after a call from a COVID positive person, a member of the polling committee will come in front of their house or apartment, without coming into direct contact with the infected person. The person of confidence will then fill in the ballot, put it in an envelope and return it to the member of the polling committee outside the apartment.

“The infected person must not come into direct contact either with the member of the polling committee or with the ballot,” DIP vice-president Ana Lovrin stressed.

The person of confidence is usually a member of the infected person’s household.

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