Envelope manufacturers deny responsibility for Austrian election meltdown

A 'letter wrap' is not an envelope, the FEPE insists. [FEPE]

The Austrian government said the rerun of the presidential election has been delayed because defective glue caused mail-in ballot envelopes to open, rendering the vote invalid. But the European Federation of Envelope Manufacturers (FEPE) replied that envelopes are not to blame.

The postponement of the election was seen as a further embarrassment for Austria, in particular for the government of Chancellor Christian Kern.

Austria delays presidential election re-run after postal ballot snag

A re-run of Austria’s presidential election scheduled for next month has been delayed, Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka said on Monday (12 September), after some postal voters complained of faulty seals on ballot papers.

The election, which had been due to take place on 2 October, was called after problems with counting postal ballots also affected the original vote in May.

The election was originally held in May, but the Constitutional Court ordered a repeat poll after the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) successfully challenged the result.

Its candidate, Norbert Hofer, narrowly lost that vote to former Green Party leader Alexander van der Bellen but has led in recent opinion polls.

Far-right candidate ahead in polls for Austrian presidency

The far right is ahead in Austria’s presidential race, according to opinion polls which predict a win for the anti-immigration candidate that would be a watershed for populists across Europe who have capitalised on the migration crisis.

The rerun will take place on 4 December.

‘Letter wrap’ versus envelope

In a press release published today (20 September), FEPE stressed that the recent postponement of the Austrian presidential election was not caused by the reported failure of the envelope, but by an alternative carrying device called “self-mailer” or “letter wrap” which is produced in a different manufacturing process.

Technically speaking, the Austrian election cards are not envelopes, FEPE explained. They are so-called “self-mailers” or “wrap letter mailers”: pieces or layers of paper that contain printed information, which are folded once and sealed. The information piece does not have an extra protective wrapping around it. Therefore the election cards cannot be called “envelopes”, the manufacturers’ association insists.

An envelope is a packaging item, the edges of which are folded and sealed securely along three of its sides, the fourth side having a flap closure with an adhesive strip that allows a flat item (paper or card) to be placed inside before being sealed to protect contents, FEPE explained further.

Austria's interior ministry could postpone new presidential vote

Austria’s Interior Ministry said on Friday (9 September) it was considering postponing the re-run of a presidential election that is scheduled for 2 October on technical grounds after ballot papers for postal voting turned out to be damaged.

Austrian Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka has announced that a “classic envelope” will be used for the rerun of the elections on 4 December 2016, this time produced by the Austrian State Printing House.

“The security and protection of data is crucial, especially when carrying sensitive information such as people´s votes, and the integrity of the envelope is the proven method of doing so, as envelopes´ contents cannot be accessed without visible traces being made on the envelope,” the FEPE stated.

The decision to go back to the classic envelope, used until 2009, was made, as it had never caused any problems, confirmed Alexander Marakovits, Director of the Communications Competence Center of the Austrian Federal Ministry of Internal Affairs.

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