Colorado election staffer witnesses historic Armenian election

Steve Bouey and his observation team partner, Magda, from Poland. (Steve Bouey photo)

Steve Bouey, the campaign finance manager for the Colorado Secretary of State, just completed travel to his 74th country.

Bouey felt right at home in Armenia. The altitude in the capital city of Yerevan is only 1,000 feet lower than that of Denver’s famous Mile High mark. And Armenia’s landscape is filled with mountains and picturesque forests.

As an observer for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Bouey has traveled abroad dozens of times and met hundreds of foreigners who are passionate about establishing and maintaining free and fair elections.

This was the first election of its kind in Armenia. A constitutional referendum approved in December 2015 changed the government from a semi-presidential system to a parliamentary system.

An anxious crowd gathers outside one of the polling stations in Yerevan waiting to cast their ballots for Parliament.

The constitutional amendments “reduced the powers of the president in favor of the prime minister and the parliament and changed the electoral system from a majoritarian one to a largely proportional system, with district lists,” according to a report from OSCE.

Bouey, one of the 250 observers that OSCE assigned to the April 2 election, was there to help make the sure the process went smoothly. Partnered with a Polish observer, Magda, they traveled to various polling centers around Yerevan throughout the day.

“The country tried to do a lot of voter education before Election Day because this was the first of its kind,” Bouey said.

Armenians cast their ballots for Parliament on election day in Yerevan.

Citizens ages 18 and older were eligible to vote. The voter list was compiled through the state population list and contained more than 2.5 million voters. The turnout among Armenians, who were required to vote in-person and only on Election Day, was 62 percent.

“(Armenians) really want to show that they’re making progress in holding free and fair elections,” Bouey said, “and they’re getting better at election administration.”

Bouey traveled to Ukraine to witness the elections in 2015. That also was through OSCE which, in part, works for stability, peace and democracy through political dialogue, according to its website.