Budapest Mayoral Election Sees Record Invalid Votes

Candidate David Vitezy has highlighted some striking correlations.

2024. 06. 12. 13:43
Photo: MTI, Zoltan Balogh
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In light of the extremely tight election results, it is still unclear who will be the mayor of Budapest for the next five years. The situation is further compounded by an extremely high rate of invalid votes. According to official figures, a total of 24,592 such ballots were counted, almost three times the number of invalid votes cast in 2019.

In 2019, 8,388 invalid votes were cast, and nearly 10 percent fewer voters showed up at the polling booths than last Sunday. In 2014, the number of invalid votes was also significantly lower than last Sunday, with only 11,563 invalid ballots registered.

The results from 2010 are even more telling. Then, the total number of invalid ballots cast was 7,796, the lowest in the history of mayoral elections. In 2006, by contrast, there were 10,579 invalid votes, which is still just a third of the invalid vote numbers registered last Sunday.

 

 

When is a vote valid?

Under current legislation, a ballot paper that has not been stamped by the electoral commission is considered invalid at Sunday's elections. The ballot paper may not be stamped in advance and may only be stamped in the presence of the voter, i.e. validated by a member of the committee.

A valid vote may be cast by drawing two intersecting lines (+ or x) with a pen in the circle next to the name of the candidate or above the name of the party. Circling, scribbling in, or putting a tick in the circles, as well as instances when the lines happen to intersect each other outside the circle designated for this purpose, are considered invalid votes.

If the other conditions are met, the validity of a vote shall not be affected by any comment written on the ballot paper. However, a vote cast with a pencil is invalid.

 

Vitezy requests a recount

As we have already reported, the issue of invalid votes has been a source of heated debates since Sunday, with candidate David Vitezy emphasizing after the mayoral elections that a recount would be necessary. This comes as little surprise, given that the current mayor won Sunday's municipal election by a very close margin of just 324 votes against Mr Vitezy. The candidate of the DK–MSZP–Dialogue alliance appears to have secured victory with 47.53% of the vote (371 466 votes), while LMP's candidate received 47.49% (371 142 votes).

Before all of the votes had been counted and processed, David Vitézy already made it clear that he would initiate a vote verification exercise because of the almost 25,000 invalid votes.

According to our knowledge, there have been several cases where voters cast their ballots for Alexandra Szentkirályi, the former mayoral candidate of the Fidesz-Christian Democrat (KDNP) party alliance, even though she withdrew from the race and her name had already been crossed out. However, we also have information that in some constituencies the ballot papers were issued without the name of the former candidate being crossed out (or crossed out with a very thin, vague line), which is clearly a violation and calls into question the fairness of the procedure.

 

In a recent post, David Vitézy underlined that he has information about possible fraud. – There are plenty of open questions and suspicions. 24,592 invalid votes were cast in this election, which is a record. "With 100 percent of the votes counted, incumbent Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony leads by 324 votes, which means the number of invalid votes is 76 times the difference separating the two candidates. According to information we've obtained, some districts had systemic problems with the invalidation of votes, and it was in these districts that the percentage of invalid votes was high," LMP candidate David Vitezy remarked.

 

Suspicious coincidences

David Merker, himself also a mayoral candidate marked in fourth place on LMP's joint list, told the Index news site that – according to their data – the highest number of invalid votes was cast in districts 7, 8, and 4. In these districts the proportion of invalid votes was blatantly high compared to votes cast on party lists in the capital. 

Therefore, upon examining the ballot papers, Mr Merker found that in places where Alexandra Szentkiralyi's name was properly crossed out, the percentage of invalid votes was rather low, and where it was not, the percentage increased or was extremely high. In some polling stations the fact that Ms Szentkiralyi's name had been crossed out appeared as a simple printing error. 

According to Mr Merker, this is because many people did not notice at first that Ms Szentkiralyi's name was crossed out, and when they did, they voted for Mr Vitezy. The name of Alexandra Szentkiralyi, Fidesz's former candidate, was crossed out in a hardly visible manner in both Budapest's 4th and 2nd districts, for example.

However, according to the law, the validity of a vote is not affected if any comments have been made on the ballot paper, such as changing the order of candidates or lists, crossing out a candidate's name or list, adding a name or list, or if a candidate who has withdrawn has been voted for by mistake.

Mr Merker believes that thousands of votes could be "lost" as votes cast with two x's appearing on the ballot paper were invalidated, even though these votes were valid because the second x was drawn in David Vitézy's circle, who was still in the race. According to Mr Merker, many in the polling stations were unaware of this rule, as the election committees were informed late.

So, these votes are valid by law, but they were considered invalid in several places,

– David Merker said. 

 

Cover photo: Ballot boxes in Borsod-Abauj-Zemplen county's 6th constituency (Photo: MTI/Zoltan Balogh)

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