Dijana Vukomanović

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This paper is based on qualitative secondary data analysis to provide more comprehensive insights into innovative electoral policy choices of election management bodies (EMBs), faced with multiple challenges of COVID-19 to different aspects of organisation of electoral cycle: its regulatory, operational, and procedural framework to ensure safe voting environment, voter participation and democratic legitimacy. Various COVID-19 related arrangements are reviewed: health safety measures and more extensive use of already existing special voting arrangements (SVAs) – early, postal, mobile or proxy voting and possibilities for online voting in the future. Strengths and weaknesses, costs and benefits of these hybrid voting methods are compared. Conclusion of this analysis is that the traditional preference of EMBs for in-person, in-polling station voting with low-tech paper ballots remains unchanged by COVID-19. There was not enough time, resources and political incentive of decision-makers to introduce innovative or high-tech online SVAs. Analysis shows that postponement of elections during pandemic challenges institutional stability and should not be regarded as an example of future good practice. Decreased or inadequately high voter turnout during COVID-19 was registered as a significant threat to democratic legitimacy and to resilience of democracy. Necessity for strategic contingency planning of electoral cycle is confirmed and recommended.