Thursday, May 30, 2019

#DeniedMyVote - The position across the EU

This is a long information post. It's to support my next post looking at the details of how European Union citizens resident in the UK can vote here in European Parliament elections. As part of this I look at what the requirements are across the whole European Union.

In a lot of the talk about #DeniedMyVote there has been conflicting claims about whether or not other EU member states have similar requirements of EU citizens having to complete additional forms in order to be able to cast their European Parliament vote in their country of residence. Rather than trading anecdotes, let's have a quick look at what the actual procedures are.

The EUROPA - Your Europe European Union website has information for EU nationals residing in countries other than their country of citizenship at Your Europe > Citizens > Residence formalities > Elections abroad > European elections. Although not exhaustive, there's information about how to register to vote for the European elections in each member state. So just how many states have a declaration process requiring non-national EU citizens to complete extra steps in order to register for the European Parliament elections? The answer is at least most of them:

"...voters must be registered on the European electoral roll in Austria at least 72 days before the European elections."
Nothing specific about transfers though the term "European electoral roll" suggests a specific franchise roll instead of a combined one. The page links through to the Austrian government site but only in German.

"...non-Belgian nationals must:
  • be registered on the electoral roll in Belgium
  • not be registered to vote in their home country
To inform the authorities where they will vote for European Parliamentary elections, non-Belgian EU nationals should contact the Belgian municipality where they reside no later than 31 January 2019."

"When voting for Members of the European Parliament from the Republic of Bulgaria, citizens of other EU Member States are entered on the electoral roll on the basis of a standard statement to the municipal administration at their address of residence in Bulgaria no later than 40 days before election day."

"In order to vote in the Republic of Croatia nationals of other EU Member States must apply to the office responsible for their place of permanent or temporary residence in Croatia to be entered in the electoral roll, and must do so no later than 30 days before the date of the elections.
They must include the following with their application to be entered in the electoral roll:
  • a declaration stating their nationality, their place of permanent residence in the Republic of Croatia, where applicable, and the place or constituency in their home Member State in whose electoral roll their name was last entered
  • a declaration that they will vote in Croatia only"

"To inform the authorities where they will vote for European Parliament elections, foreign EU citizens should contact the Ministry of Interior."

"The EP election electoral roll is managed by Czech municipal authorities. As an EU national, you can be placed on the electoral roll if:
  • you submit a request
  • you submitted a request in the previous EP elections and have not asked to be deleted from the electoral roll since
  • you are on the electoral roll for municipal elections and ask to have your information transferred to the EP electoral roll."

There's not a lot of text on the site. However if we follow the link through to the Danish government we find:
"If you are an EU citizen and reside in Denmark, you can only be enrolled in the electoral register for the election in Denmark upon application. The reason is that EU citizens who live in a member state other than their home country can usually choose if they want to participate in the elections in their home country or their country of residence. However, you can only vote in one place, and thus you cannot vote both in the elections in Denmark and in your home country.

If you want to vote in the elections in Denmark, you must fill out the application form (see the application form below) and enclose documentation for the information stated on the application form."

"To inform the authorities where they will vote for European elections or stand as a candidate, EU citizens residing in Estonia must first submit a one-time application to be entered in the polling list. The application shall be submitted to the chief processor of the population register not later than on the thirtieth day before election day."

"EU citizens need to enroll with the voting register to vote, for the first time, in Finland in European elections.
They should contact the local register office and file a written notification 80 days before the election day at the latest to inform that they wish to vote in the elections in Finland."
Again there's a link through to the domestic government website with a bit more:
"When a person has been entered in the voting register in Finland, the Finnish authority will notify the relevant authority in his or her home state of the registration, and his or her personal data will be removed from the electoral register of this state. According to the EU Act concerning the elections, no one may vote in more than one Member State of the European Union in the same election. EU citizens may vote either in their home state or in the state they live in."

Link to the declaration form.

"When registering on the list of EU citizens, you should provide a written statement that you will exercise your right to vote in France only."

"Foreign EU citizens should contact their German municipality of residence to inform the authorities where they will vote in European Parliament elections."

"To register on special electoral rolls, you must:
  • fill in a formal declaration form
Voting in the European elections is compulsory for everybody on the electoral roll. If you don't vote, you may be sent to prison for a period of 1 month to a year.
If you wish to vote for political parties and candidates from your home EU country, you may contact its Embassy or Consulate in Greece."

The information for Hungary doesn't seem to cover this. It describes how to register but it's not clear if this is exclusively for the European Parliament elections (and thus has the declaration built in?) or if there's a more general process. There's a link to the National Election Office website but it's in Hungarian.

"To inform the authorities where they will vote for European Parliament elections, foreign EU citizens should contact the relevant local authority in Ireland or visit the Register of Electors website."
Ireland appears to require registration for each election. The form for EU citizens (other than British) includes both registration and a declaration. The declaration form needs to be officially witnessed.

"You must inform the Italian national authorities where you intend to vote in the European Parliament elections when you register on the electoral roll in the municipality where you live. When registering, you must declare that you will vote only in Italy."

"Foreign EU citizens need to register to vote in the European elections (foreign EU citizens need to be permanent residents of Lithuania 65 days before election day) and to submit a formal declaration that they want to vote in Lithuania.
In order to be registered, the deadline to submit the above-mentioned formal declaration is 25 days before election day.
The rules to be included into electoral roll are the same as for Lithuanian nationals, but foreign EU citizens need to submit the above mentioned declaration form.
To inform the authorities where they will vote for European elections, foreign EU citizens should contact the Central Electoral Commission of the Republic of Lithuania."

There isn't specific information here but there are links to the registrar's website:
"In support of their application for registration, nationals from other EU Member States must present the following:
  • a formal declaration specifying:
  • * their nationality, their date and place of birth, their last address in their country of origin and their address in Luxembourg;
  • * where applicable, on the electoral register in which local area or district in the country of origin they were last registered;
  • * that they will only exercise their right to vote in elections for the European Parliament in Luxembourg;
  • * that they have not been stripped of the right to vote in their country of origin by individual court order or by administrative decision. These decisions must be subject to a judicial review. If this is the case, the interested party must mention that the loss of the right to vote is due to the residence conditions imposed by their country of origin;
  • * a current valid identity document.
False declarations are subject to penalties."

"When you register to vote, you will need to specify whether you want to vote in Malta or in your home country. If you choose to vote in Malta, the Electoral Commission will inform your home country accordingly."

No information on the site at all, just a link to their election agency which doesn't say anything about this either:

"EU citizens who have not previously been placed on the electoral roll should apply to the municipal authority responsible for the place where they are domiciled.
A copy of their passport or other form of ID and a written declaration (indicating the number and date of the residence card issued by the provincial governor and the address and the constituency where the EU citizen is on the electoral roll in their country of origin) should be attached to the application.
The declaration should state that the applicant wishes to exercise their electoral rights in Poland and has not been deprived of electoral rights in their country of origin.
EU citizens who are not Polish citizens should contact the municipal or city authority responsible for their place of residence in order to make it known where they intend to vote."

"EU citizens can register with the registry commissions (comissões recenseadoras) or the Aliens and Borders Department (Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras, SEF). They are then registered in the constituency corresponding to their place of residence as stated in their valid residence document (título de residência).
For this purpose they must:
  • submit a valid identity document
  • provide proof of legal residence in Portugal, in the form of an EU citizen's registration certificate (Certificado de Registo de cidadão da UE) or an EU citizen's certificate of permanent residence.
Voting is voluntary, so there is no penalty of any kind for not doing so.
However, voting simultaneously in the European elections in both Portugal and another EU country is punishable by a prison sentence of up to one year and a fine of up to 50 days."

"As an EU citizen, you have to register in a special electoral roll to be able to vote in Romania. You need to submit your request in writing to the mayor of the place of your domicile, accompanied by a copy of a valid identity document."
Otherwise nothing about declarations but it's possible the application for the special roll incorporates it."

"Citizens of other EU countries need to register to vote in the European elections. The municipality will add electors who are citizens of another EU country to the electoral list on request. This application must be submitted by the EU citizen to the municipality in which they reside no later than 40 days before the day of the election. Otherwise, they will no longer have the right to enroll on the electoral list."
Again there's nothing about declarations.

"EU citizens need to register in the Municipal Register and also formally express their wish to exercise the right to vote in Spain so that they can be put on the electoral roll of foreigners residing in Spain (CERE) for European elections."

"To vote in the European elections, you must be  
  • an EU citizen registered in Sweden 30 days before the elections. You must also inform the county authority (länstyrelse) that you wish to vote in Sweden rather than in the country of which you are a citizen."

United Kingdom:
"UK and EU citizens in the UK need to register to vote in European Parliament elections."
And nothing further on the site but a link through to the government website:
"If you're a citizen of an EU country (other than the UK, Ireland, Malta and Cyprus) who's resident in the UK, you can vote in either the UK or your home country.
If you want to vote in the UK you must be registered to vote. Contact electoral authorities in your home country (where you're a citizen) if you want to vote there."
Information about declarations is noticeably absent.

Most of these reference some kind of formal procedure for an EU citizen to formally declare they're exercising their European Parliament in their country of residence and not of their country of citizenship. (The use of the term "home country" for the country of citizenship has caused some outrage on social media but is used so often as to be a standard legal term.) Not every country's information mentions it, and it's possible that some of the countries which have compulsory voting, whether enforced (Belgium and Luxembourg) or not (Bulgaria and Greece) invert the process. But it seems clear the standard assumption is that an EU citizen will be voting in their country of citizenship and they must take active steps to be able to vote in their country of residence.

This is so widespread it seems clear this is a requirement of EU Law, even though hardly anyone has identified the specific law. It's also notable that in a lot of countries the declaration is a separate procedure from registering for local government elections (and, confusingly, some seem to make registration for European Parliament elections a separate affair altogether).

Few state what happens to the declarations, but the information for Finland is clear that the declaration is reported back to the country of citizen's electoral authorities to prevent them exercising the vote there. This means it would be impossible to operate this procedure at polling stations and that this was not an option the UK could have adopted, despite some calling for it.

So overall this procedure seems to be a creation of the EU rather than the UK, showing that those making wild claims about "voter suppression" don't know what they're talking about. It's an administrative arrangement that sounds good in principle (and could indeed be adopted by the UK against concerns about people registering & voting in two places at once) but is a bureaucratic quagmire that isn't well publicised (I've seen claims made that it doesn't exist in countries that have it) or processed well.

Finally it's notable that in a lot of EU countries voter registration is handled by local government, just as it is here. This can't make for easy exchange of information between countries.

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