How to Vote for the European Elections from Abroad
In a couple of months, from Thursday May 23rd to Sunday May 26th, Europeans from all over the European Union get the chance to vote. There seems to be some confusion and misconceptions about the election process, so I will try my best to explain it to you. However, I have to admit that these are not the easiest elections, especially for someone who lives in another EU country than his own. To start simple, you can only vote once in the elections, but you do have the choice between voting in your home country, so the one where you have citizenship; and your country of residence. However, you need to know that you can only vote for national candidates. So, if you want to vote in Maastricht, then you can only vote for a Dutch candidate.
Unfortunately, each EU country has its own legislation when it comes to voting, so voting in your home country might be a little complicated, depending on the national electoral procedure for residents abroad. To make your life a little easier, I did some research on how Italians, Germans, Belgians and French can vote from abroad. I apologise if your country did not make the list, but there are 27 state that will vote (maybe even 28 depending on how Brexit turns out) and I really could not do all of them. However, if you want to check your own country you can use this website for additional information. All in all, I found that voting in Maastricht or going to your home country and voting in person is a lot easier for most states than trying to vote from abroad.
If you are not from Maastricht, or the Netherlands, you have to be registered with the municipality. Some of you may have already received the “Declaration on voting for the European Parliament in the Netherlands” from the municipality. Your next step is now to fill sign it and send it back to the municipality before April 11th. At least two weeks before election day, which in the Netherlands is set for 23rd of May, you will receive your invitation to vote and your polling card. With this polling card you can vote at any polling station in Maastricht, and you will be given the address of the closest polling station to your residence. In the Netherlands, a so-called open list system is employed, which means you can vote directly for one specific candidate.
To be able to vote for German members of parliament (MEPs) you have to be registered in the ‘Wählerverzeichnis’ electoral role. If you are still registered with your home municipality in Germany, that means that you still are one the electoral role. If you cannot make it back home to vote in person, you have the option of postal voting which is relatively easy in Germany. Your municipality sends out a “Wahlbenachrichtigung” (Notice of election) at least 3 weeks prior to the elections and on the backside, there is a form with which you can apply for postal vote, without giving a reason. There is even the possibility to apply for postal vote before you obtain the notice of election. You should contact your municipality to apply beforehand. In Germany you can only vote via the closed list system, which means you cannot cast your vote directly for the candidate of your choice, but that you can only vote for one party. The date of the elections is set for Sunday, 26th of May and the total number of seats to be won is 96.
As an Italian, you need to be registered with “Anagrafe degli Italiani Residenti all’Estero” (A.I.R.E.). If you are, you will receive an electoral certificate via post. This certificate will provide you with the date and time, as well as the place where you can cast your vote. Voting for Italian candidates takes place in consular offices in The Hague. The date of elections is Sunday May 26th. The system used is an open list system within constituencies. This entails that direct votes for single candidates are possible and that the country is divided into constituencies which in turn each have their own lists. And did you know that Italy together with Greece has the highest age requirement for candidates in the European Union? For most Member States the age requirement to run in the EP elections is 18, however in Italy one has to at least be 25 years old.
For Belgium, the date of the elections is also Sunday 26th of May and like national elections, the EP elections are also compulsory.
If you cannot vote in person in Belgium, you have the option of voting at the foreign representation in the Netherlands. However, you need to have taken up contact with the foreign representation at least three months prior to the elections, so in case you haven’t done so yet, this option is unfortunately no longer available. Unfortunately, it is only possible to vote in the community where you are registered, so you can’t just take the train to Liège for instance and vote there. Like I mentioned above, European elections are compulsory and not voting can lead to a fine up to 60 euros. In Belgium, like in the Netherlands an open list system is used so you can directly vote for a specific candidate. The total number of seats for the Belgian delegation is 21.
The deadline for French citizens to register with the “liste électorale consulaire” is March 31. Once you are registered, you will be able to cast a vote on Sunday (May 26th) in an embassy or consulate; either in The Hague or Amsterdam. The French system follows constituencies, there are 8 different constituencies (circonscriptions), consisting of the different regions and each constituency receives a different number of seats in the parliament, the biggest one being Île-de-France with 15 seats. In total, the French delegation will fill up 79 nine seats, which makes them the second biggest delegation in the Parliament (behind Germany). Lastly, the system which is used is the closed list system so voters can only elect parties but no single candidates.