Voters have a right to security provided by police and security forces in polling stations, but without interference from them.
- The Committee recommends that States parties: (f) Adopt a zero-tolerance policy towards all forms of violence that undermine women’s participation, including targeted violence by State and non- State groups against women campaigning for public office or women exercising their right to vote.
- STOs should observe the general conditions outside and around the polling station. A number of issues are relevant: Are security personnel present, and if so, are they behaving in an appropriate manner?
- The legal framework for elections should prohibit the presence of unauthorized persons in polling stations. This can usefully be coupled with a pro-vision for police officers only to enter polling stations either to vote or when officially requested to restore order. In the latter event, police should enter polling stations only if authorized by the person in charge of the polling station, and should be required to leave as soon as order is restored.
- In some states, having a police presence at polling stations is a national tradition, which, according to observers, does not necessarily trigger unrest or have an intimidating effect on voters. One should note that a police presence at polling stations is still provided for in the electoral laws of certain western states, even though this practice has changed over time.
- Issues and procedures to observe include: Are there police, security forces, of government officials in polling stations?
- No unauthorised person, including members of the security forces, agents or observers, should interfere in the conduct of polling or the exercise of the elector's right to vote.
- Police and security forces have a dual role in an election setting, providing security for electors while also ensuring that they do not interfere with the rights of the electorate.
- ...[W]herever possible, members of the military and the police should vote in advance polls. Otherwise on polling day those not on duty should vote in ordinary civilian polling stations where they reside, without bearing arms and without wearing uniform.
- Insurgent threats, intimidation and violence towards potential voters can result in significant reductions in voter turnout, with grave negative effects on election legitimacy and on the development of democratic processes. In countries or areas where insurgents have called for boycotts and threatened violence against voters, more attention should be devoted to considering how voters can vote while minimizing retaliation. Voting practices that, for example, result in voters having semi-permanent marks on their bodies (e.g., ink stained fingers) allow insurgents to identify voters for punishment, and may be inappropriate in some contexts.
- Security personnel are often present near polling stations on election day to protect against any unlawful or arbitrary interference with the voting process. At all times they should act in an appropriate and impartial manner and should not contribute in any way to an atmosphere of intimidation. Similarly, public authorities should act in a neutral manner on election day.
- In countries with a track record of election violence, governments should draw up plans for dealing with such violence in the future in ways that are consistent with their human rights obligations. (...) While some of the details of such contingency planning will need to remain confidential, it is also essential that the authorities release enough detailed information in order to make it clear that serious planning has been undertaken, as well as to discourage those potentially violent forces who might otherwise assume there will be few obstacles to, and no consequences flowing from, their actions.