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Authentication of petitions for direct election of the Czech president

The first ever direct election of the president of the Czech Republic took place in January 2013. Until then the president was elected indirectly, by Parliament of the Czech Republic. The Czechs thus had occasion to choose a new head of their state, a successor to hitherto president Václav Klaus. Under the law on direct election of the president of the Czech Republic a presidential candidate can be nominated by a group of at least 20 deputies or 10 senators. Also, any citizen can stand as a candidate having reached the age of 40 and having his or her nomination endorsed by a petition signed by a minimum of 50,00 voters (petitioners). And it was the checking and automated authentication of the information on presidential candidates’ petition sheets that proved an arduous task.

Client:

Ministerstvo vnitra České republiky

Client’s profile

The entity responsible for the organization, receipt, processing and assessment of the lists of candidates, which comprised the petition sheets, was the Ministry of the Interior of the Czech Republic (“MoI CR”). The task of MoI CR was, apart from the organization of the election, registration of the presidential candidates based on checks on the requisites of the lists of candidates, and for candidates with petition support from the voters, based on authentication of the data given in the petition sheets.

The authentication of the presidential petitioners’ data was automatic and required two basic steps. The first step involved scanning of the petition sheets into digitized images and counting the total number of persons who had signed a petition. Subsequently, two check samples were selected by random choice from the petition sheets containing records of 8,500 petitioners. The records with information about the petitioners were converted into data strings and allocated for further authentication.

The second step was authentication of the petitioners’ identification from two check sources: Register of Inhabitants (ROB) and Population Information System (ISEO). Petitioners included in the randomly chosen samples were first identified with the records in the check sources, and then we checked on the fulfilment of legal requirements for validity of the petition record based on data acquired from the check sources.

The initial situation

The order “Automation of authentication of petitions for direct election of the president” was placed with Hewlett-Packard s.r.o. (“HP”), which collaborated with several subcontractors to carry out the individual project phases.

Concerning the services for processing the petition sheets, scanning, counting total number of petitioners’ records, creation of check samples and conversion of selected petitioners’ records into data strings, HP collaborated with scanservice a.s.

With regard to development, implementation and operational support of the information system Petition (“IS Petition”) for authentication of the data in the check sample data strings, HP worked in association with KOMIX s.r.o.

The solution of KOMIX s.r.o.

The task of KOMIX was to develop and implement IS Petition which involved three basic tasks. The first one was to identify the petitioners with persons on the Register of Inhabitants (ROB) and Population Information System (ISEO). This step was first taken automatically, and if the data did not match, we continued manually with an operator doing the identification.

The second task was to verify the validity of the record of each identified petition in terms of the conditions laid down by law, which was done against data from the check sources. A petitioner had to reach the age of 18 not later than the second day of the election, could not die before the collection of the signatures for the petitions could start by law, and had to have legal capacity and Czech citizenship. In addition, we checked for duplicated records of the same petitioner in a selected check sample of each petition.

The second task was to compile statistics for final decision of MoI CR whether a candidate satisfies the conditions for standing as a candidate or not. The decision was made in keeping with the assessment of the check samples as defined in the law for direct election of the president.

Ministry of the Interior was in an unenviable situation as the deadline for the processing of the petition data, which could not be extended because of legal time limits and considerable interest of the public, demanded efficient, rapid and coordinated steps of all the participating work groups. In addition, the collected data contained the candidates’ and the petitioners’ personal data, which required a higher degree of security.

Assessment – benefits for the client

It was clear from the outset that it was necessary to undertake an all-out effort in the first direct election of the president of the Czech Republic and the steps that had preceded it, both on the part of the ministry and on that of the service provider. The precondition was close collaboration of the project teams on all levels. This necessitated regular work meetings, supplying immediate information on all aspects that might cause a slip behind the schedule, and daily contacts between  the workers.

The heads of the ministry departments concerned were under considerable pressure from the public and the media. The first direct election necessitated the interpretation of a new law which had not been applied and the entire procedure for assessment of the check samples had to be unambiguous, demonstrable, documented, and auditable.

If we look back at the supplied solution and services, we will find that the workers’ professional approach and exemplary cooperation between the client and the contractors guaranteed the successful completion of the order, not only in terms of the informatics but also in carrying out the legal tasks and meeting the deadlines on the part of the Ministry of the Interior.