Electoral Processes

 

To what extent do all citizens have the opportunity to exercise their right of participation in national elections?

EUOECD
 
All adult citizens can participate in national elections. All eligible voters are registered if they wish to be. There are no discriminations observable in the exercise of the right to vote. There are no disincentives to voting.
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Australia
No changes to voting rights occurred in the review period. Registration on the electoral roll and voting are compulsory for all Australian citizens aged 18 years and over, although compliance is somewhat less than 100%, particularly among young people. Prisoners serving terms of three years or more are not entitled to vote in federal elections until after their release, but all other adult citizens can participate in federal elections and there is no evidence that any person has been prevented from voting.
Estonia
The Estonian constitution and relevant laws guarantee universal suffrage. The voting age is 18 for national and European elections, and 16 for municipal elections. About 6% of the population (or 16% of the voting-age population) are non-citizens who cannot vote in parliamentary elections, but have the right to vote in local elections. EU citizens residing in Estonia can vote in municipal and European Parliament elections. Estonian citizens residing abroad (about 10% of the electorate) can vote in all Estonian elections either at an Estonian embassy or increasingly online.

The state authorities maintain the voter register based on the population-register data. Eligible voters need to take no action to be included in the voter register. Each registered voter is informed by post or e-mail about all voting options, including the voting day, the location and opening hours of his/her polling station.

To facilitate participation in elections, Estonia uses advanced-voting, home-voting and internet-voting systems. Advanced voting is open for 10 days prior to election day. In the 2019 parliamentary elections, 44% of participating voters voted online.

Ethnic minorities’ modest degree of engagement in election processes has been a long-standing issue of concern. To tackle the problem, state authorities are providing more voting information in Russian. The National Electoral Committee (NEC) website now offers election information in three languages (Estonian, Russian and English). Additionally, tools for disabled persons have been added to the website.
Citations:
https://www.valimised.ee/en
Finland
Electoral provisions stipulate universal suffrage for all adult Finnish citizens (including prisoners and mentally disabled people), a secret-ballot voting method, a minimum voting age of 18, non-compulsory voting, an entitlement to vote for expatriated Finnish citizens, and the exclusion of non-Finnish nationals resident in Finland from national elections. However, non-Finnish permanent residents may vote in municipal elections. The population registration center maintains a register of people eligible to vote, and sends a notification to those included in the register. Citizens do not need to register separately to be able to vote. A system of advance voting has been in place for several decades now, and the proportion of ballots cast in advance has risen significantly. Electronic voting was tested in three municipalities during the 2008 municipal elections, but has not been adopted in subsequent elections. In its final report from 2017, a working group on the issue appointed by the Ministry of Justice stated that while technically feasible, an online voting system is still not ready to be implemented, since the technology is not yet at a sufficiently high level to meet all relevant requirements. However, the government has declared internet-based voting methods as a policy objective.
Citations:
Dag Anckar and Carsten Anckar, “Finland,” in Dieter Nohlen and Philip Stöver, eds. Elections in Europe. A Data Handbook, Nomos, 2010.
https://vaalit.fi/en/electronic-voting1
Germany
German citizens (Basic Law, Art. 116 sec. 1) aged 18 or older are eligible to vote and run for election to the Bundestag, provided that they have resided in Germany for at least three months (Federal Electoral Act, sections 12.1, 15). By judicial order, the right to vote can be denied to criminals, persons lacking legal capacity and convicts residing in a psychiatric hospital (Federal Electoral Act, sec.13). Prior to an election, every registered citizen receives a notification containing information on how to cast a vote as well as an application form for postal voting. Today, postal voting is widely used, largely without issue. According to the Federal Returning Officer, 28.6% of registered voters cast their ballot in this manner in the 2017 federal election, an increase of 4.3% compared to the 2013 election. Citizens not included in the civil registry (e.g., homeless people) are eligible to vote, but have to apply to authorities in order to be registered.

After the Federal Constitutional Court declared some provisions regarding the voting rights of Germans living abroad to be unconstitutional, a new amendment on the issue was drafted and passed in May 2013. Today, Germans living abroad have the right to vote (Federal Electoral Act, sec. 12) if they have lived at least three months in Germany after their fifteenth birthday and have not lived more than 25 years abroad without interruption. Those who do not fulfill these requirements are still eligible to cast their vote if they can verify that they are both familiar with and affected by German political conditions. Germans living abroad have to register to vote with the authorities of their last domestic residence at least 21 days before the election. They can then cast their vote by mail (cf. Federal Elections Act sections 36, 39 and Federal Electoral Regulations).

During the period under review, there were three state elections, in Brandenburg and Saxony on 1 September 2019 and in Thuringia on 27 October 27. As in all previous elections, no major irregularities or complaints about voter registration, voter lists or postal voting were reported.
Citations:
OSCE (2018): Federal Republic of Germany. Elections to the Federal Parliament (Bundestag). 28 September 2018. https://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/germany/358936?download=true

Postal ballot: Information provided by the Federal Returning Officer
https://www.bundeswahlleiter.de/info/presse/mitteilungen/bundestagswahl-2017/35_17_briefwaehler.html

Federal Elections Act (BWG) Sections 36, 39
Greece
Voting in Greece is mandatory by law. However, it is rarely enforced. In July 2016, the Greek parliament voted to lower the minimum voting age to 17 years. There is neither discrimination in the exercise of the right to vote nor any disincentive for voting. Upon being born, Greeks are registered in the municipality where their family resides. These records serve as lists of citizens eligible to vote. There is, however, a need to clean these records to remove persons who are deceased or have permanently migrated to other countries. Thus, the records include names of persons who will never turn out to vote. The result is that election turnout rates are calculated based on an aggregate that is much higher than the actual number of eligible voters.
Iceland
Iceland’s voting procedure is unrestricted. If an individual is registered as a voter within a constituency, he or she only has to present personal identification to cast a vote. Every person 18 years or older has the right to vote.
New Zealand
New Zealand’s electoral process is inclusive and voter registration and voting process is non-discriminatory. Since 1974, the voting age has been 18 years. Discussions concerning lowering the voting age to 16 have seen little progress. Permanent residents of 12 months standing are given the right to vote in national elections. For those who move offshore, they remain eligible to vote, providing they return home every twelve months. Citizens who live elsewhere retain their eligibility for three years. While it is compulsory to register to vote, the act of voting is voluntary. Māori may register to vote on either the Māori electoral roll or the general roll. There are seven designated Māori seats in the current legislature (separate Māori representation was introduced in 1867). Additional Māori representatives are elected on the general roll. Electoral boundaries are redistributed every five years. Beyond legal regulations, there are focused and ongoing activities – by the Electoral Commission in particular – to increase political efficacy and turnout by ethnic minorities, those with disabilities, as well as young voters. Whereas electoral turnout in the postwar period tended to fluctuate between 85% and 91%, in 2014 turnout increased for the first time since 2005. This positive trend continued with turnout for the 2017 election reaching 79.8%, with many voters (47%) voting in advance. Registering for an election can be done electronically. Registered voters then receive an “easy vote” pack with further voting information. However, the Election Commission Report on the 2017 election mentions the need for further “streamlining [of] the special vote process to reduce the impact of the growth of special votes on the timeliness of election results, providing a more accessible online enrollment option to reduce late enrollment, removing restrictions on voting place locations, and addressing barriers that affect voters on the unpublished roll, remote and disabled voters.” Under current rules, prison inmates are barred from voting. In August 2019, the Waitangi Tribunal urged the government to change the law, arguing that the blanket ban on prisoners’ voting rights affects Māori disproportionally (in 2018, Māori were 11.4 times more likely than non-Māori to have been removed from the electoral roll). At the end of November 2019, the justice minister (Andrew Little) – in response to the Tribunal’s recommendation – announced the government’s intention to restore voting rights to people sentenced to less than three years of prison.
Citations:
Access 2011: Accessibility Action Plan for the 2011 General Election and Referendum on the
Voting System (Wellington: Electoral Commission 2011).
Raymond Miller, Democracy in New Zealand, Auckland, Auckland University Press, 2015, chapters 1, 5 and 9.
Report of the Election Commission on the 2017 General Election. April 2018. https://www.elections.org.nz/sites/default/files/plain-page/attachments/report_of_the_2017_general_election.pdf
Macandrew, Waitangi Tribunal calls for urgent law change to allow prisoners to vote in 2020 election (https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/crime/114914807/waitangi-tribunal-calls-for-urgent-law-change-to-allow-prisoners-to-vote-in-2020-election)
Little, Andrew (2019). https://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/prisoner-voting-rights-be-restored-ahead-2020-general-election
Norway
All Norwegian citizens who are 18 years old or older have the right to vote in parliamentary elections. In local elections, permanent residents who have resided in Norway for at least five years have the right to vote. There is no requirement of prior registration. Each eligible citizen receives a voting card sent by mail. It is possible to vote before the election through the post or at specific locations, including at Norwegian embassies abroad. There has been no allegation from any political party that the electoral process is not inclusive. Election turnout is high, and discrimination is rarely reported. Young voters “learn” voting behavior in schools by participating in a school vote prior to reaching the age of voting eligibility. Some municipalities have experimented with a voting age of 16 in local elections.
Slovenia
The electoral process is largely inclusive at both national and local levels. All adult citizens, including convicted prisoners, can participate in elections and no cases of voting irregularities have occurred in the period under review. Voters that will not be in their place of residence on election day can ask for a special voter’s pass that allows voting at any polling station in the country. While no general postal vote exists, Slovenian citizens who live abroad as well citizens unable to make it to the polling stations for health reasons or because of disabilities can exercise their voting rights by mail. In another attempt at making voting more inclusive, a 2017 amendment to the electoral code called for making all polling stations accessible for persons with disabilities. This amendment was for the first time implemented during the parliamentary elections in June 2018 and led to the closure of some polling stations that were not accessible for persons with disabilities. One Slovenian peculiarity are the special voting rights for the Hungarian and Italian minorities and the Roma population. Members of the Hungarian and Italian minorities can cast an additional vote for a member of parliament representing each minority in the national parliament. In the case of local elections, a similar provision exists for the Roma population in all municipalities with a substantial Roma minority.
Citations:
OSCE/ OHDIR (2018): Republic of Slovenia: Early Parliamentary Elections, 3 June 2018. Final Report. Warsaw (https://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/slovenia/394106?download=true).
Sweden
The Swedish electoral system meets the highest requirements in terms of eligibility, transparency and the basic right to participate. There are no legal obstacles to anyone who wants to run in an election. Political parties conduct candidate selection without any interference from the state, and the media closely monitor the parties during the selection process. Electoral turnout has always been high and increased even further in the 2000s. In the 2018 elections, turnout was 87.2%.
Citations:
Valmyndigheten (http://www.val.se/).
Switzerland
Formal procedures and rules in the area of voting and registration rights are those of a model democracy. However, there are at least two problems.

The first relates to the proportional voting system for elections. Small parties from small electoral districts successfully claimed before the Federal Supreme Court that they have effectively no chance of winning one of the very few seats allotted to these districts. The court then ruled that every citizen must have the same influence on elections. Therefore, the size of districts must be designed in such a way that there are at least 10 seats at stake, thus giving small political parties a real chance to win a seat. Several cantons affected by the ruling reorganized their electoral system and districts accordingly. However, the court’s decision is not very coherent. It forces the cantons to guarantee that voters within a canton will have an equal degree of influence but accepts that federalism leads to much more significant inequalities of influence at the national level.

This leads to the second challenge. It is certainly true that the decentralized federal structure of Switzerland as a multicultural country gives some citizens much more electoral influence than others. This is particularly true of representation within the Council of States (Ständerat), the country’s second parliamentary chamber (which is modeled after the U.S. Senate). Each canton is entitled to two representatives. The Council of States has the same power as the National Council (Nationalrat), while the size of cantons varies by as much as a factor of 36. This means that a citizen of the canton of Zürich, which has 36 times more inhabitants than the canton of Uri, has considerably less political power than one of Uri. This overrepresentation of small cantons has real effect within the bicameral parliament’s legislative process. Historically, these strongly protected minority rights are traceable to the denominational conflicts of the 19th century. However, one can argue that this denominational definition of minority status no longer holds importance. This would mean that the strong overrepresentation of small cantons should somehow be modified. So far, all parliamentary initiatives aiming at such a reform have failed.
Citations:
Source: Adrian Vatter 2018: Swiss Federalism. The Transformation of a Federal Model. Routledge: New York/London
Netherlands
Contrary to other civil rights, the right to vote in national, provincial or water board elections is restricted to citizens with Dutch nationality of 18 years and older (as of election day). For local elections, voting rights apply to all registered as legal residents for at least five years and to all EU nationals residing in the Netherlands. Convicts have the right to vote by authorization only; as part of their conviction, some may be denied voting rights for two to five years over and above their prison terms. Since the elections in 2010, each voter is obliged to show a legally approved ID in addition to a voting card. Legally approved IDs include either a (non-expired) passport or driver’s license.
Citations:
art J24 Kieswet: http://wetten.overheid.nl/BWBR0004627/AfdelingII/HoofdstukJ/6/ArtikelJ24/geldigheidsdatum_24-05-2013

art 1 Wet op Indentificatieplicht:
http://wetten.overheid.nl/BWBR0006297/geldigheidsdatum_24-05-2013#HoofdstukI_Artikel1
9
Austria
Voter registration and voting rights are well protected. Registration is a simple process, taking place simultaneously with the registration of a residence. Citizens must be at least 16 to vote. The country has made efforts to allow non-resident citizens to vote from overseas.

The relative difficulty in obtaining citizenship, and thus voting rights, represents a more problematic aspect of the political culture. According to some mainstream interpretations of democracy (e.g., following Robert Dahl), all legal residents should have the right to vote and therefore the right to citizenship. However, Austria’s system does not provide most long-term residents with a simple means of obtaining naturalization and voting rights. In 2019, the exclusion of resident non-citizens has for the first time become a political issue and this debate could become more heated as political parties differ significantly on the issue of accessing citizenship.

The presidential elections of 2016 led to a debate about the handling of absentee voting. The accommodating means of handling the absentee voting creates a discussion about mixing politics and legal principles: The permissive access to absentee voting is in the interest of specific social segments and therefore of specific parties (like the Greens) – and against the interest of others (like the FPÖ). While the 2019 parliamentary elections were not overshadowed by any known violation of the rules concerning absentee votes, the issue will not go away. This could lead, in the long run, to a conflict of interests, disguised as a conflict of principles. Nevertheless, at the moment it doesn’t seem that any significant change will take place.
Belgium
Voting is compulsory in Belgium, and all resident Belgian citizens are automatically registered to vote. Non-Belgian residents and Belgian nationals living abroad must register on a voluntary basis.

There are two marginal limitations in terms of the proportion of voters concerned. In some municipalities with “linguistic facilities” around Brussels (i.e., situated in Flanders, but with a significant proportion of French-speaking voters), voters may not receive voting documents in their native language. The situation is usually handled quite pragmatically, but in 2015 this led to the prolongation of a stalemate in one “commune à facilités/ faciliteitengemeente” in the Flemish periphery of Brussels. In this municipality, Linkebeek, no arrangement could be found for the (Francophone) mayor to be officially installed by the (Flemish) regional authorities, although he and his list had captured a broad majority of the (largely francophone) vote. Eventually another Francophone mayor was installed in Linkebeek after the 2018 local elections, but local tensions and complications persist, as in some other “communes à facilités/ faciliteitengemeenten.” Most Francophone voters did not receive voting documents in their native language for the 2019 regional, federal and European elections.

The fact that compulsory voting is not extended to Belgian nationals living abroad means that their actual degree of representation is lower than that of regular voters. There are no specifically allocated parliamentary seats (or alternative arrangement) to represent Belgian nationals living abroad.
Canada
All Canadian citizens 18 years and over have the right to vote, including the mentally deficient and people who are imprisoned in a correctional facility. Until recently, the only exceptions were election officers and, following a 2015 Ontario Court of Appeal ruling, non-resident citizens who have resided abroad for more than five years. In January 2019, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Canadians living abroad for any length of time can continue to vote in federal elections. Canada has a system of universal voter registration; the government is in charge of registering its citizens to vote as a means of protecting their constitutional right (this stands in contrast with the United States’ system of citizen-initiated opt-in registration). Additionally, Canada allows for election-day registration for those who the universal registration system missed. Procedures for voting are not onerous. Adequate opportunity for casting an advance ballot is provided. There are four days of advance polling, ending the week before election day. Additionally, people can vote by mail if they cannot attend to a polling station due to physical incapacity or foreign residency.

The previous Conservative government made some highly controversial changes to Canada’s election law. The current Liberal government attempted to reconcile these issues with its Bill C-76, the Elections Modernization Act. This measure allows voter information cards to be recognized as an acceptable form of identification, and restores the rights of Canadians living abroad to vote in elections no matter how long they have lived abroad.
Citations:
Parliament of Canada, Bill C-23: An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to certain Acts, posted at http://www.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?Language=E&Mode=1&DocId=6684613.

Parliament of Canada, Bill C-33: An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, posted at http://www.parl.ca/DocumentViewer/en/42-1/bill/C-33/first-reading

CBC (2019) “Supreme Count of Canada guarantees voting rights fpr expats” https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/supreme-court-expat-voting-rights-ruling-1.4970305
Czechia
All adult citizens, including convicted prisoners, can participate in national elections, and voter registration is relatively straightforward. EU citizens who are permanent residents of Czechia can participate in municipal and European elections. As of 2018, EU citizens who are temporary residents of Czechia can also participate in municipal elections. However, while special provisions for a mobile ballot box facilitate voting for the disabled and seriously ill, there is no general ability to vote by mail. Czech citizens residing abroad can vote at Czech embassies and consulates. For them, participation in elections is complicated by having to meet a special deadline for registration and the fact that there are only a limited number of embassies and consulates.
Denmark
According to section 29 of the Danish constitution, “Any Danish subject who is permanently domiciled in the Realm, and who has the age qualification for suffrage as provided for in sub-section (2) of this section shall have the right to vote at Folketing elections, provided that he has not been declared incapable of conducting his own affairs.”
According to section 31 of the Danish constitution, “The members of the Folketinget shall be elected by general and direct ballot.”
More specific rules are laid down in the election act. The election act stipulates that “franchise for the Folketinget is held by every person of Danish nationality, who is above 18 years of age, and permanently resident in the realm, unless such person has been declared legally incompetent.” The rule on legal competence applies to the Folketing (section 29 of the constitution), but – according to a parliament decision in 2016 – not to local, regional or European Parliament elections. Any person above the age of 18 (since 1978) and “permanently resident in the realm” is entitled to vote.
Citations:
Folketinget, Parliamentary Election Act of Denmark, http://www.ft.dk/~/media/Pdf_materiale/Pdf_publikationer/English/valgloven_eng_web_samlet%20pdf.ashx (accessed 16 April 2013).
Zahle, Dansk forfatningsret 1.
“Umyndige udviklingshæmmede kan ikke sådan lige få stemmeret til folketingsvalg,” https://www.mm.dk/tjekdet/artikel/umyndige-udviklingshaemmede-kan-ikke-saadan-lige-faa-stemmeret-til-folketingsvalg (accessed 7 November 2018).
“2.000 danskere er frataget stemmeret.”https://politiken.dk/indland/art5793960/2.000-danskere-er-frataget-stemmeret (Accessed 7 November 2018).
France
The right to participate in elections as a candidate or as a voter is fully guaranteed. There is no evidence of restrictions or obstruction in the application of the law. Every citizen enjoys rights that are provided by the constitution. No progress has been made to extend the right to vote to foreign residents, except in the case of EU citizens. Voter registration is easy and, in particular in small local communities, it is quasi-automatic as the local bureaucracy often proceeds with the registration process even without a specific request from the individual. Elsewhere, potential voters have to register. It is usually estimated that some 10% of the electorate is not registered.
Israel
In Israel, the right to vote is almost comprehensive, with very few restrictions.
According to the Israeli Basic Law, “the Knesset” (1958), every Israeli citizen above 18 is eligible to vote in general elections. This right is guaranteed under the principle of equality. Thus, it is only restrained by the need to exhibit valid government identifications with the voter’s name and picture. If the voter refused to take an ID photo (as in the case of some religious women), the ID will be considered valid if it received authorization from the Ministry of the Interior. Article 10 of the Basic Law states that the day of the national elections is a national holiday, with public transportation and public services open, thus giving voters a positive (or, at least, not a negative) incentive to vote.

Until 1988, the issue of prisoners’ right to vote was not much debated. However, after a number of petitions were submitted to the Supreme Court (Bagatz) the Knesset revised the law to state that a voting box must be stationed in every prison. Handicapped citizens are also entitled to special voting stations that are adequately equipped, thus simplifying their voting process by using double envelopes. The state is obligated to offer at least one such station in every city council, and at least two in a city council with more than 20 regular voting stations. During the voting process, if the voter struggles with the voting procedure for any reason (such as ill health) he or she has the right to ask for assistance by an escort. Much like the case of handicapped people, soldiers in active duty are entitled to vote in special voting stations using a double envelope. Although the mentally ill are usually unable to access voting stations (due to hospitalization or personal constraints), they are not restrained by any specific law.

There are informal restrictions on voting, which reduce the ability of citizens belonging to certain groups to actually exercise the right to vote. In contrast to some countries, Israel does not allow citizens that are out of the country (the territories excluded) at the time of the elections to vote unless they are members of a distinct status, eligible by law (e.g., embassy employees stationed abroad). However, every citizen has the right to vote without a minimum period of residency in the country.

Information regarding the voting procedure is available via special government-funded information centers, and be accessed through the media, online and by telephone. Problems and complaints are dealt through the Central Elections Committee, each branch assigned with different level complaints.
Citations:
Bander, Arik, “The Election Committee Suggests: Voters Could Vote in A Different Address Than Registered,” Maariv Online, 22.6.2016, http://www.maariv.co.il/news/politics/Article-546545



“Basic Laws: The Knesset,” Knesset official website: www.knesset.gov.il/description/eng/ eng-mimshal_yesod1.htm

Blander, Dana, and Avital Friedman. “Who will not be able to vote on Election Day?,” Israel Democracy Institute, 31.3.2019 (Hebrew): https://www.idi.org.il/articles/26341

The 19th election for the Knesset: Information for the voter Q&A,” National election supervisor website (Hebrew)
“Who is allowed to vote?,” Israel Democracy Institute website, November 2002 (Hebrew)


Central Election Committee: Elections for the 21. Knesset, 9. April 2019: https://bechirot21.bechirot.gov.il/election/Pages/HomePage.aspx (Hebrew)
Italy
The registration of citizens for electoral purposes is done automatically by municipal offices and there are no significant problems with this procedure.

All citizens are notified via mail at home of their voting rights and supplied with the relevant information. Citizens are entitled to appeal to independent judicial bodies if they are mistakenly excluded from registration. Citizens living abroad are also entitled to vote. There are no significant complaints about the process.

Polling stations are very numerous and typically very near to places of residence. Nationall elections take place on two consecutive days, which increases the opportunities for working people to vote. Turnout has diminished significantly in recent years but is still among the highest in Europe.
Lithuania
All citizens who are over the age of 18 on election day are eligible to vote. Although citizens living abroad may vote if they preregister, only 11% of the Lithuanian citizens who have declared themselves to be living abroad registered to vote in the 2012 parliamentary elections. Several proposals for the introduction of internet-based voting have been rejected by the parliament, although this issue is likely to reappear on the political agenda. Votes can be cast in person on election day, but provisions are also made for early voting, out-of-country voting, voting in special institutions and voting for those who are homebound. There are no specific disincentives to voting, although the absence of internet voting capabilities may limit participation rates for citizens living abroad, as overseas voting must be done in person in diplomatic missions that are usually located in the capitals or other major cities of foreign countries. In the first round of the autumn 2012 parliamentary elections a vote-buying scandal led to the cancellation of results and a second ballot in two races. After the 2016 parliamentary elections, alleged cases of vote-buying in rural electoral districts emerged, leading to police investigations and the removal of one elected member of parliament from the party list. No such major cases of suspected vote-buying came to light during the 2019 municipal, presidential and European parliament elections.
Citations:
OSCE/ODIHR Election Assessment Mission Final Report on the 2019 presidential election in Lithuania, see https://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/lithuania/433352?download=true
OSCE/ODIHR Election Assessment Mission Report on the 2016 parliamentary elections in Lithuania, see http://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/lithuania/296446.
Malta
Malta’s electoral laws are effective and impartial, and are controlled by a constitutionally-designated electoral commission. While there is no legal obligation to vote, turnout at general elections is high at over 90%. Maltese law states that any individual sentenced to a minimum prison term of one year cannot vote in elections. In the absence of postal or electronic voting mechanisms, residency qualifications are an obstacle to voting since voters are required to physically cast their ballots in Malta. However, since the 1980s, Maltese living abroad have been able to avail themselves of subsidized travel for voting purposes, since overseas Maltese cannot as yet vote at embassies, though this capability is being discussed. Amendments to the Electoral Law in 2018 lowered the voting age to 16, making Malta the second country where this has happened. Other changes have helped patients cast their votes during a hospital stay. Notwithstanding, legislation must be harmonized to ensure full voting rights for individuals with mental disabilities. Residents who are not citizens may not vote in national elections, yet in line with EU law, they may participate in local or European Parliament elections. There have been requests for better and more timely information for EU citizens exercising their right to vote. Third-country immigrants and refugees do not have the right to vote. Recommendations have been made to increase transparency in the system. These include a secrecy mechanism for assisted voters as well as laws enabling international observers to examine the election process, the setting of deadlines and publishing of all records of complaint. Malta has now shifted from a manual to an electronic ballot-counting system, which was used for first time in the European and local council elections of May 2019
Citations:
http://www.timesofmalta.com/article s/view/20130115/elections-news/ad-o n-voting-rights-for-maltese-abroad- party-financing.453281
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20 130220/local/Should-prisoners-in-Ma lta-be-allowed-election-vote-.45843 0
Should Migrants have the Right to Vote? Times of Malta 23/06/14
https://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20171015/local/counting-halls-electronic-voting-and-legal-changes-on-electoral.660402
https://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20180305/local/16-year-olds-granted-the-vote-in-national-elections.672453
Times of Malta 19/11/18 Government considering ways for Maltese abroad to vote in embassies
Malta Today 02/12/18 Labour ministers shoot down voting right proposal for non-EU nationals
Malta Today 13/11/18 Voting counting hall transformed as electronic system in place for European elections
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voting_age#Malta
Malta Independent 26/03/19 PD requests extension of voter registration period
Portugal
All adult citizens are guaranteed the right to participate in national elections. The government also provides transportation to those requiring it. Citizens in hospitals and in jails are also able to vote, with assistance provided as necessary, and provision is made for Portuguese citizens living abroad to cast their ballots.

Foreign citizens residing in Portugal are entitled to register to vote in local elections if they are from EU member states, or from Brazil, Cape Verde, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Iceland, Norway, New Zealand, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela. Brazilian citizens can also request a statute of equal rights and duties, which grants them the right to vote in legislative elections.

As per previous SGI reports, the substantial inflation of the electoral register remains problematic, generating a problem of technical abstention. Estimates in the aftermath of the October 2019 legislative elections indicated that there were about 796,000 more people on voter registration lists than there are in the voting age population. This is a little higher than the estimates at the time of the previous 2015 legislative election (of around 780,000), but is an improvement on the estimates made at the time of the 2017 local elections (850,000).

As noted in previous reports, this difference reflects the failure of Portuguese emigrants registered to vote in Portugal to transfer their electoral registration to their overseas residence. As Portuguese voters can only vote in the administrative parish (or, if abroad, in the country) in which they are formally registered, this means that a substantial proportion of Portuguese emigrants are unable to exercise their voting rights.

This issue was partially addressed with the approval in parliament of Law 3/2018. With this law, Portuguese citizens officially residing abroad are automatically registered to vote.

This had a positive effect on the 2019 elections. Thus, the number of registered Portuguese voters in Switzerland increased from just 9,457 in the 2015 legislative elections to 146,795 in the 2019 legislative elections.

However, as also noted in previous reports, this does not fully resolve the issue, as technical abstentions are largely the result of Portuguese emigrants registered to vote in Portugal failing to update their address (and electoral registration) to their overseas residence following emigration.

However, it must be noted that this discrepancy is not due to legal barriers to registration. Both within and outside Portugal, electoral registration is a simple and non-exclusionary process.
Citations:
Lei Orgânica nº 3/2018 [Law no. 3/2018], available online at: https://dre.pt/application/conteudo/116090196

Pedro Crisóstomo & Maria Lopes (2015), “Emigrantes registados nos cadernos eleitorais distorcem números da abstenção,” Público online (11/10/2015), available online at: http://www.publico.pt/politica/noticia/emigrantes-registados-nos-cadernos-eleitorais-distorcem-numeros-da-abstencao-1710762?page=-1

Rui Dias (2017), “Em Guimarães há 15 mil eleitores fantasma,” Mais Guimarães – 22/8/2017, available online at: http://maisguimaraes.pt/em-guimaraes-ha-15-eleitores-fantasma/

Público (2019), “Portugal tem 796 mil ‘eleitores-fantasma’,” available online at: https://www.publico.pt/2019/10/18/politica/noticia/portugal-796-mil-eleitoresfantasma-1890500
Slovakia
The electoral process is largely inclusive. In principle, all adult citizens can participate in elections. There is a special electoral register for Slovak citizens without permanent residence in the country (i.e., homeless people). Since November 2009, only prisoners who have been sentenced for “particularly serious crimes” have been disenfranchised. Their number is estimated at about 1,600. Voters that will not be in their place of residence on election day can ask for a special voter’s pass that enables voting elsewhere on the territory of Slovakia. Slovak citizens who are abroad on election day can vote by mail in parliamentary elections. In contrast, citizens living abroad cannot participate in presidential elections, as the Ministry of Interior claims it is not able to manage two rounds of postal voting.
Citations:
No major changes.
South Korea
All citizens of South Korea aged 19 and over have the right to cast ballots, provided that they are registered as voters at their place of residence in South Korea or in another country. National elections are national holidays, making it easier for all citizens to vote. Legally incompetent individuals and convicted criminals still serving prison terms are deprived of active voting rights. The same applies to individuals whose voting rights have been suspended by a court verdict, those who have violated election laws, committed specified crimes while holding one of a set of public offices, and those who have violated the law on political foundations or specific other laws. Since the candlelight demonstrations against President Park in 2016 – 2017, public support for expanding voting rights to all citizens aged 18 and over has grown.
Since 2009, overseas citizens aged 19 or older have been able to vote in presidential elections and in National Assembly general elections. Overseas citizens are defined as Korean citizens residing in foreign countries in which they are permanent residents or short-term visitors. Moreover, Korea was the first country in Asia to grant voting rights in local elections to foreign residents who have lived in the country for three or more years. Unfortunately, voter turnout rates among foreigners are still low. Citizens can appeal to the National Election Commission and the courts if they feel they have been discriminated against.
Citations:
National Election Commission, Right to Vote and Eligibility for Election, http://www.nec.go.kr/nec_2009/english/ National Election Commission, NEWS No.7
“Rival parties agree to new map,” Korea Joong Ang Daily, 24 February 2016.
http://koreajoongangdaily.joins.com/news/article/article.aspx?aid=3015438
Korea Herald. “Voter Turnout Reaches 77%.” May 9, 2017. http://www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20170509000522
Korea Joongang Daily. “Koreans divided over lowering voting age.” February 11, 2017. http://mengnews.joins.com/view.aspx?aId=3029735
Park, Si-soo. 2018. “Eligible Foreign Voters Surpass 100,000, but Few Cast Ballots.” The Korea Times.https://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/nation/2018/10/177_257145.html
UK
In general elections, British, Irish and qualifying citizens of Commonwealth countries can vote. In local and devolved parliament/assembly elections, EU citizens resident in the United Kingdom can also vote. Entitlement to vote thus extends beyond British citizenship. However, the aforementioned nationalities can vote only if they have leave to remain in the United Kingdom.

In order to be entitled to vote, voters must be on the electoral register, which is maintained by local authorities and updated annually. The Electoral Registration and Administration Act 2013 also introduced individual electoral registration, which is intended to improve the security of the registration process. Registration statistics show regional and social discrepancies. There has been some concern that in certain localities where a significant proportion of the population do not speak English as a first language the registration process has been abused. Sporadic complaints are made about excessive (and possibly manipulated) use of postal votes.

A restriction on the right to vote in national elections applies only in three cases, namely criminal imprisonment, mental disability and membership either of the House of Lords or the royal family.
 
The procedures for the registration of voters and voting are for the most part effective, impartial and nondiscriminatory. Citizens can appeal to courts if they feel being discriminated. Disincentives to voting generally do not constitute genuine obstacles.
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Chile
Law No. 20,568, enacted in January 2012, and Law No. 20,669, enacted in April 2013, changed the voter registration system, eliminating the voluntary registration and compulsory voting system and replacing it with automatic registration and a voluntary right to vote for citizens older than 18 years. This reform promoted the participation of younger and especially first-time voters in the 2013 presidential elections. This law also introduced assisted voting for citizens with disabilities.

Since April 2014, Chileans living abroad have been automatically registered to vote if they are registered correctly with the registrar. These citizens are officially allowed to participate in presidential elections, presidential primaries and national plebiscites (which are not explicitly provided for by the constitution), but not in parliamentary or municipal elections. Chileans living abroad were able to vote for the first time in the presidential elections of 2017.

Citizens who have been charged with a felony and sentenced to prison for more than three years and one day, as well as people classified as terrorists, lose their suffrage rights. Prisoners who have not been charged but remain on remand de facto lose their right to vote as administrative and infrastructural barriers impede their participation in elections. Nevertheless, Law No. 20,568 eliminated penalties previously dealt to registered voters who did not vote and failed to have an explicit and officially approved excuse for not doing so. The fact that the act of voting is now completely voluntary is questioned by some politicians and intellectuals who argue that voting not only represents a civil right but also a civil duty. Fears were raised by academics that the transition to voluntary voting would be accompanied by a bias toward middle- and upper-class voters, since lower-class and marginalized voters would disproportionately stay home. These fears ultimately turned out to be unjustified, as balloting has demonstrated no significant bias with regard to socioeconomic status in comparison to previous elections. However, voter-turnout rates dropped to a historic low in the municipal elections of 2016. The presidential election of 2017 confirmed this tendency, with the voter turnout rate in the first ballot dropping to 46.65% as compared to 49.13% in the previous election of 2013.
Citations:
http://www.bcn.cl/leyfacil/recurso/voto-de-chilenos-en-el-extranjero

http://www.biobiochile.cl/2014/04/30/presidenta-bachelet-promulga-ley-de-voto-chileno-en-el-extranjero.shtml

https://www.servel.cl/voto-de-chilenos-en-el-exterior-2/

About suffrage of prisoners:
https://scielo.conicyt.cl/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0718-34372018000100233

https://ciperchile.cl/2013/08/27/votando-en-la-carcel/
Croatia
All citizens of voting age are entitled to participate in elections, and legislation on this issue is strongly inclusive. For example, prisoners are eligible to vote, and persons without legal capacity were allowed to participate for the first time in the April 2013 European Parliament elections. Before these 2013 elections, the highly outdated voting register was thoroughly cleaned. However, a controversial 2015 amendment to the Law on the Register of Voters limited the automatic registration of voters to those with a valid ID. A provision enabling Croatian citizens without permanent residence in Croatia to take part in national elections if they register in advance remains controversial. Upon coming to office in October 2016, Prime Minister Plenković announced to address the problem of the large differences in the number of voters per constituency, a fundamental lack of the electoral system in Croatia. In the period under review, however, no changes were initiated.
Cyprus
Voting ceased to be mandatory in 2017. Exercising voting rights requires registration on the electoral roll. Despite amendments aiming to facilitate participation, registration rolls may “close” up to three months before an election. No means of e-voting or proxy voting exist. The voting age is 18, down from 21 since 1996. Special arrangements enable prisoners and other groups to exercise their voting rights. In some cases, displaced voters are assigned to vote in distant polling stations, which seems to favor abstention. Overseas voting has been possible since 2011 in a limited number of cities in Europe and elsewhere. Only 7% of Turkish Cypriots living in the areas not under the Cypriot government’s control exercised their voting rights in the 2019 EP elections. There were nine Turkish Cypriot candidates, and one of them, a professor at the University of Cyprus, was among the six elected to the European Parliament.

Voter registration by young citizens remains very low (20-25% of those eligible) since the early 2000s. Additionally, abstention rates have risen sharply, ranging from 28% in presidential elections to more than 50% in local and EP elections.

An OSCE report praised the way and the “competitive and pluralistic environment” in which the 2018 presidential elections were conducted. It also includes recommendations for addressing issues related to party and candidate financing.
Citations:
1. Turkish Cypriot politicians on Kizilyurek’s election, in-Cyprus, 28 May 2019, https://in-cyprus.com/turkish-cypriot-politicians-on-kizilyureks-election/
2. OSCE/ODIHR Cyprus, Presidential Election, 28 January and 4 February 2018, Final Report 2 May 2018, https://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/cyprus/379225?download=true
Ireland
There have been no changes in voting and registration rules in recent years. All Irish citizens aged 18 and over are entitled to be registered to vote in all elections and referendums. British citizens may vote in parliamentary, European and local elections; other EU citizens may vote at European and local elections; non-EU citizens may vote at local elections only.

There is no population register in Ireland on which voter registration might be based. Instead, an electoral register is compiled by local authorities. To register to vote, a person must ordinarily be a resident at the address recorded in the electoral register by 1 September, when the register comes into force. There is limited provision for postal voting. While there is no evidence of systematic discrimination or disenfranchisement of any social groups in the compilation of the electoral register, inconsistencies in the register have been repeatedly exposed, displaying a lack of investment in the electoral process and even a lack of concern for its integrity.

The constitutional convention recommended lowering the voting age from 18 to 16 and the government promised to hold a referendum on this proposal. However, it announced early in 2015 that it no longer planned to hold this referendum during the life of the present parliament.

In January 2015, the government committed to establishing an independent electoral commission during its term of office, but admitted that this commission would not be ready to function in time for the mid-2016 general election.

There was a small change to the layout of the ballot paper in 2016, designed to reduce possible voter confusion. The party logos, which were previously on the left of the ballot paper, have now been moved to the right just before the candidates’ photographs. This was designed to eliminate the problem of blank boxes on the left of the paper (in the case of independent candidates without a logo), into which some voters inadvertently or deliberately placed their preferences, thus spoiling the ballot.
Citations:
Preliminary study on the establishment of an electoral commission in Ireland, submitted to the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government
by: Richard Sinnott, John Coakley, John O’Dowd, James McBride,
Geary Institute University College Dublin
November 2008
Programme for National Recovery 2011-2016, March 2011
Convention on the Constitution: www.constitution.ie
http://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/reduction-of-voting-age-from-18-to-16-to-be-put-to-referendum-1.1458229

David Farrell (2015), ‘Conclusion and Reflection: Time for an Electoral Commission for Ireland,’ Irish Political Studies 30:4, 641-646.
Japan
The Japanese constitution grants universal adult suffrage to all Japanese citizens. The voting age is 18. One exception applies to individuals currently in prison, who are not allowed to vote. Since 2006, Japanese citizens living abroad have also been able to participate in elections.

One long-standing issue concerns the relative size of electoral districts as rural districts contain far fewer voters than urban areas. In June 2017 the lower house electoral system was amended to reduce the maximum vote-weight disparity to 1.99 to 1, just under the 2:1 threshold set by the Supreme Court and confirmed in a December 2018 ruling.

Vote-weight disparities are even more pronounced for the upper house. In 2018, the LDP-led coalition passed a law adding two seats in the densely populated Saitama prefecture as well as four party-list seats. The maximum vote-weight disparity in the July 2019 upper house elections was 3:1. In October 2019, the Takamatsu High Court ruled that this level of disparity was unconstitutional, but did not nullify the election results. Other rulings are still pending.
Citations:
Supreme Court rules vote-value disparity under 2 constitutional, The Asahi Shimbun, 19 December 2018, http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201812190057.html

Court rules July poll result was ‘unconstitutional’ due to vote disparity, The Japan Times, 16 October 2019, https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2019/10/16/national/politics-diplomacy/court-calls-july-poll-result-question-vote-disparity/

Diet finally enacts electoral redistricting law to correct vote weight disparities in Japan, The Japan Times, 9 June 2017, https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/06/09/national/politics-diplomacy/diet-finally-enacts-electoral-redistricting-law-correct-vote-weight-disparities-across-japan/
Latvia
All adult citizens over 18 years of age have voting rights in national elections. Resident EU citizens can vote in local and European elections, and all have access to an effective, impartial and non-discriminatory procedure for voting. Procedures are in place for ensuring that incarcerated persons are able to cast ballots. Non-resident citizens have voting access via polling stations in Latvian diplomatic entities and polling stations abroad as well as through an absentee-ballot postal procedure.

Latvia has a significant population of non-citizens (10.07% of the total population in 2019) who, while allowed to join political parties, cannot participate in any elections.

Voting procedures for non-resident citizens can in practice present obstacles. For example, the number of Latvian diplomatic representations is limited, which can mean that non-resident citizens have to travel long distances, at significant expense, to vote. Furthermore, to vote by post non-resident citizens are required to submit their passport, which can be held for three weeks.

Election observers in the 2018 parliamentary elections found no major faults with voting rights and access, but suggested that implementation of a permanent voter register be considered in order to promote universal suffrage.

At the local-government level, voting rights and procedures are similar. Voters may vote in local-government elections on the basis of their residence or according to property ownership. Voters have designated polling stations but can switch to a more convenient polling station if desired. For individuals unable to be present at polling stations on election day, polling stations are open for early voting in the days prior to the election. Currently, no provision is made for non-resident citizen participation in local-government elections.
Citations:
1. OSCE: Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (2019), Parliamentary Elections 6 October 2018:
ODIHR Election Assessment Mission Final Report, Available at: https://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/latvia/409344?download=true, Last assessed: 04.11.2019

2. Central Statistical Bureau (2019) Demography, Available at:https://www.csb.gov.lv/lv/statistika/statistikas-temas/iedzivotaji/iedzivotaj u-skaits/meklet-tema/387-demografija-2019, Last assessed: 02.11.2019

3. Central Election Commission, Voting from abroad, Available at: https://www.cvk.lv/pub/public/32011.html, Last assessed: 04.11.2019
Luxembourg
Voting is compulsory in Luxembourg for those listed on the electoral register. To vote, one is required to be a national of Luxembourg, to be at least 18 years old on the day of the election, and have full civil and political rights. Citizens temporarily living abroad may vote by mail and citizens over the age of 75 are exempted from casting their vote. There are no perceptible forms of discrimination within the voting process. The Luxembourgish government sought to encourage political participation among young people by lowering the voting age to 16 years, but this proposal was rejected in the consultative referendum of June 2015.

Experts have constantly criticized the representative makeup of the parliament as insufficient, since it does not include the migrants and cross-border commuters who constitute 80% of the private sector labor force, and who are the main driving force of the national economy. Around 53% of the resident population cannot vote in national elections, as they are not Luxembourg nationals. However, 80% of the resident population are EU citizens and may vote in European elections and municipal elections. All foreigners, EU citizens as well as citizens from third countries, have the right to participate in local elections provided they fulfill certain residency requirements and are registered on the electoral list. Conditions for inscription have been eased over the years. Only 23% of foreigners were registered in the electoral municipal election of 2017, yet 12% of the total electorate were foreigners and almost 8% of candidates were not Luxembourg nationals. This indicates that non-nationals’ rate of political participation at the local level remains low.

Citizens are not allowed to observe the process of counting votes. Political parties can nominate a witness to oversee the vote-counting process, but ordinary people are not permitted to attend the count.
Citations:
“Noch viel Luft nach oben.” Luxemburger Wort, 7 February 2017. https://www.wort.lu/de/politik/frauen-und-auslaender-bei-kommunalwahlen-noch-viel-luft-nach-oben-58998841a5e74263e13aa349. Accessed 19 Oct. 2019.

“Ist Luxemburgs Wahlsystem ungerecht?” L’Essentiel, 15. Oktober 2018. http://www.lessentiel.lu/de/luxemburg/story/ist-luxemburgs-wahlsystem-ungerecht-28637598. Accessed 2nd Dec. 2019.
Mexico
Mexico has had universal suffrage since 1953 and male suffrage since 1917. Legally, Mexico by and large conforms to the standards of electoral democracies, especially on the national level. The organization and administration of elections is managed professionally by the National Electoral Institute (INE). In recent years, INE oversight over state-level electoral institutions has increased. There is also a system of electoral courts, which are generally more professional and independent than the criminal courts. Citizens and party members can appeal to these courts if their political or electoral rights are violated.

Voters have to register through INE to receive a voter identification card. The same electoral register is used for federal and state or local elections. This may serve to discourage marginalized and less educated citizens from voting.

A total of 89,978,701 people, approximately 72.7% of the Mexican population, applied for the required ID in 2018.

Mexicans living abroad (about 10% of the population) are allowed to vote for the president, but turnout is extremely low, in part due to the difficult registration process. More than 11 million Mexicans live abroad, but only 100,000 participated in the 2018 elections.

In general, Mexican elections are considered mostly free and fair. Complaints concern vote-buying and some minor problems, such as the theft of 34 ballot boxes by armed groups. Violence is a major problem. During the 2018 elections, 133 candidates were killed, most of the candidates are presumed to have been murdered by organized criminal gangs.
Citations:
Miranda, Fernando (28 de junio de 2018). «Acaban campañas con récord en el nivel de violencia». El Universal.
Poland
Almost all adult citizens above 18 years of age in Poland have the right to vote. There is no blanket disenfranchisement of convicts or individuals who have been declared incapacitated, although the Commissioner for Human Rights has argued that the restrictions for people with disabilities should be lifted. All Polish citizens are automatically registered to vote, so there is no need for registration before elections. These lists are generally considered to be coherent, complete and valid. Changes of the election code in 2018, which were criticized due to its quick decision-making and lack of public consultation, made some procedures for voting more difficult. Since the local elections in autumn 2018, postal voting is only open to disabled voters and no longer for citizens living abroad. Citizens who live abroad have to vote in specific ballot offices in their consulates or embassies. Since citizens living abroad have tended to be critical of the PiS in previous elections, the amendment is regarded as being strongly biased in favor of the PiS. Results for Poles voting abroad in the 2019 elections confirmed this pattern.
Complaints against election results have to be directed to the Supreme Court within seven days of the election result’s announcement. Since the now more partisan National Election Council and the prosecutor general, who is also the minister of justice, are responsible for the validation of election results, doubts were raised, for example, by the OSCE conclusion that election-related disputes can be settled in an impartial and independent way.
Citations:
OSCE/ODIHR (2020): Limited Election Assessment Mission Final Report: Republic of Poland, Parliamentary Elections 13 October 2019. Warsaw (https://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/poland/446371).
Spain
Every Spanish citizen 18 years and over has the right to vote. The extent to which this suffrage can be exercised is absolute, and apart from minor errors, no discrimination or any other significant exclusion has existed in recent elections. Only those who have been judged guilty in certain criminal cases (always by a court) may lose their political rights. All citizens are automatically included in the electoral register, which is as a rule updated correctly. Adequate opportunities for casting an advance ballot are also provided in case of illness, absence or simple incapacity to attend the polling station on the day of election.

The only two notable problems are related to immigration and emigration. The 5 million foreigners who live in Spain are not entitled to vote in national elections and naturalization is not easy even for foreign residents of long standing. However, this restriction is common to all advanced democracies. EU citizens can vote in local and European Parliament elections as in May 2019, and non-EU citizens are entitled to cast ballots in local elections if their home countries reciprocally allow Spaniards to vote.

Much more problematic is the exercise of voting in Spain of Spanish citizens living overseas, who face onerous bureaucratic obstacles to participating in elections as well as occasional technical failures in the administrative work of consular departments. Although 90% of the roughly 2 million Spaniards who live abroad are registered, the voting procedure is complicated and, as a result, turnout rates among expatriates are extremely low (under 5%). The parliament has recognized the need to address deficiencies in voting by post from abroad and has considered several proposals to ease the current requirements. However, no proposal was formally adopted in 2019 and, thus, the problem has persisted during the period under review, which was critical with many elections held at the national (two), regional (in 14 out of the 17 autonomous communities), local and European levels.

On a more positive note, the parliament amended the electoral law in December 2018 and lifted restrictions on the right to vote for persons with disabilities, including those previously declared incapable by a court decision. This amendment enfranchised some 100,000 citizens.
Citations:
OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (2019), Spain Early Parliamentary Elections, https://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/spain/416252
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Bulgaria
Bulgarian voters are registered by default through voter lists maintained by the municipalities. Voter lists are published in advance of election day, and voters can also check their presence on the lists online. Every person who is not included in the voter list at their place of residence can ask to be included, and if not included can appeal to the courts. Bulgarian citizens residing abroad have the right to vote in parliamentary and presidential elections, as well as in national referendums. They can do this at the various consular services of Bulgaria, or if they establish a polling station themselves in accordance with procedures specified in the election code.

Contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights, people serving prison sentences are not allowed to vote. Another limitation affects absentee voting – citizens can obtain permits to vote outside of their permanent place of residence, but no general postal vote exists. A national referendum in 2015 on a proposal to introduce distance electronic voting received overwhelming support, forcing parliament to decide on the issue in 2016, and to include provisions for machine and electronic voting in the electoral code. However, the Central Electoral Commission, the body tasked with managing elections, has failed to introduce them in practice.

Other changes to the electoral code adopted in April 2016 made voting compulsory and limited the number of voting stations in foreign countries to 35 per country. However, the first of these provisions does not envisage any penalty for failing to vote, while the second was later relaxed for EU member states.
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Romania
Voting and registration rights were in the spotlight this year after disfunctions at polling stations in the diaspora restricted the ability of some Romanians abroad to cast their ballot in the European Parliament elections on May 26, 2019. The government opened more polling stations abroad, but lines remained significant, leading to long waiting times and even an inability to vote. This prompted protests and calls for the resignation of Foreign Affairs Minister Teodor Melescanu, who issued an apology to the Romanians abroad who found it difficult to access a polling station and ordered an inquiry into the problems. National Liberal Party (PNL) president Ludovic Orban threatened to file a criminal complaint against Minister Melescanu for hampering the vote abroad, claiming that the Ministry operated an insufficient number of polling stations abroad in an effort to reduce the number of diaspora votes (which traditionally favor parties other than the PSD). President Klaus Iohannis called on authorities to resolve the issue quickly.

Following the elections, the PNL and the People’s Movement Party requested an inquiry into the limitation of the right to vote of Romanian citizens in the diaspora. The establishment of a committee to amend the election law was approved in June 2019. The Chamber of Deputies then adopted amendments that allowed Romanians from abroad to vote over a three-day period from Friday to Sunday. Weeks later, President Iohannis promulgated a law introducing early voting and voting by mail in presidential elections.
 
While the procedures for the registration of voters and voting are de jure non-discriminatory, isolated cases of discrimination occur in practice. For some citizens, disincentives to voting constitute significant obstacles.
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Turkey
All Turkish nationals over the age of 18 can exercise the right to vote (Constitution, Article 67). The Supreme Election Board (SEB) is the sole authority in the administration of Turkish elections (Law 298, Article 10). The General Directorate of the Electoral Registry, a part of the SBE, prepares, maintains and renews the nationwide electoral registry.

The ban on military students and conscripts, and the blanket restriction on voting rights for prisoners are disproportionate and at odds with Turkey’s international obligations (e.g., Turkey’s OSCE commitments). About six million young people waiting to vote in November 2019 could not vote because early elections were held in June 2018.

In 2008, the parliament passed a law facilitating voting for Turkish citizens who are not living or present in Turkey during elections (Law 5749). In the 2018 early parliamentary and presidential elections, about 1.5 million votes, or half of the registered voters in total, were cast abroad. The distance of polling stations from residents’ homes and the comparatively short voting period can be considered as potentially major obstacles to voting.

Turkey has a passive electoral registration system maintained by the SBE. Despite the recent revision of the national electoral registry based on an address-registration system, critics have noted that the number of registered voters and the number of eligible citizens registered in the address system do not match. Similar irregularities were claimed by some citizens during the rerun Istanbul metropolitan municipality election. Disabled voters sometimes face difficulties, as many polling stations lack appropriate access facilities.

Parliamentary and local elections are conducted by local election boards under the supervision of the SBE. These local boards verify election returns and conduct investigations of irregularities, complaints and objections, with the national board providing a final check. According to an independent report, during the 2018 elections, 127 attacks were organized, four people were killed and 90 people were injured, while 387 people were detained and 15 people were jailed.

Inconsistency in electoral results were examined by some NGOs, including Oy ve Ötesi and the Chamber of Computer Engineers. These reports underlined some insignificant errors. In order to double check the election results published by the SBE, the CHP organized a “fair election mobilization” system. However, this system proved to be ineffective.
Citations:
OSCE – ODIHR, Early Presidential and Parliamentary Elections Republic of Turkey 24 June 2018, ODIHR Election Observation Mission Final Report, https://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/turkey/397046?download=true (accessed 27 October 2018)
Temiz Seçim Platformu, 2007-2015 Seçim Hileleri Raporu, 1 Mayıs 2015, TUİK ile YSK’nın Türkiye Listelerinin Karşılaştırılması, temizsecim.org/2007-2014-secim-hileleri-raporu.html (accessed 27 October 2018)
24 Haziran 2018 Milletvekili Seçim Sonuçları – Yurt dışı, http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/secim/24-haziran-2018-secimleri/yurtdisi-milletvekili-secim-sonuclari (accessed 27 October 2018)
Seçim Döneminde HDP’ye 93 Ayrı Müdahale, https://m.bianet.org/bianet/siyaset/198468-secim-doneminde-hdp-ye-93-ayri-mudahale (accessed 27 October 2018)
23 Haziran seçimleri: İstanbul’da seçmen kayıtları siliniyor mu? Muhtarlar ve iddia sahipleri konuştu, 14 May 2019, https://tr.euronews.com/2019/05/13/istanbul-da-secmen-kayitlari-siliniyor-mu-euronews-muhtarlar-ve-iddia-sahipleriyle-konustu (accessed 1 November 2019)
“Oy ve Ötesi 24 Haziran Seçimleri Ön Değerlendirme Raporu ile YSK Kesin Sonuçları Karşılaştırmalı Veri Analizi,” https://odatv.com/images2/2018_11/2018_11_13/oyveotesiverianalizi.pdf (accessed 27 October 2018)
USA
American elections are administered by the states but subject to regulation by the federal government in order to protect citizens’ rights and other issues. In many states, convicted felons are not eligible to vote. Non-citizen residents are not permitted to vote, although permanent residents are encouraged to become citizens. Various forms of racial discrimination against blacks were widespread in many of the southern states before the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Thanks to the Justice Department’s aggressive enforcement of the act, racial discrimination in the administration of elections was largely eliminated by the 1990s.

In recent elections, however, Republican officials in many states have engaged in or attempted to engage in overt efforts to reduce the numbers of black (and sometimes Latino) voters. Often under the pretext of preventing voter fraud, Republican-controlled legislatures in over half of the states have enacted or considered measures that have made it harder for some groups to vote. Federal courts have struck down or delayed the implementation of several such state laws but have also declined to delay others. In both the 2016 and 2018 election cycles, registration procedures were subject to considerable controversy, as heavy-handed voter suppression efforts were observed in many Republican states. Some Republican-controlled states reduced the number of polling places, resulting in several-hour waits in minority and low-income areas. The Trump Justice Department has not challenged such voting restrictions. But federal courts, responding to appeals brought on by other parties, have blocked several of these restrictions. And the new Democratic House has identified voting rights as one of its top priorities. Florida passed an amendment in 2018 to restore voting rights for felons.

As of 2019, the Republican party adopted as a standard party strategy the suppression of low-income and minority votes by any legal means. Republican officials in Wisconsin and Georgia have launched initiatives to purge the voter rolls of hundreds of thousands of voters, mostly in minority and low-income areas.
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Hungary
Registration and voting procedures for the parliamentary elections in Hungary have been heavily tilted in favor of the governing Fidesz party. The single most important problem has been the unequal treatment of three groups of eligible voters: (1) Hungarians living in Hungary, (2) Hungarians with dual citizenship in neighboring countries and (3) Hungarian citizens working abroad. While the first group can vote without registration, the others have to register beforehand through a complicated procedure. Hungarians living abroad and in possession of dual citizenship – who usually demonstrate a strong political affinity for Fidesz – can vote by mail. In contrast, Hungarian citizens working abroad, who are often opposed to the Orbán government can vote only at diplomatic missions which, often far away and easily challenged by possible high turnouts. These biased procedures gave a big advantage to Fidesz, which in all elections in the 2010s contributed to its victories.
The strategic use of dual citizenship by the Orbán government was again evident in the 2019 municipal elections. Since voting in the municipal elections presupposes a local address, Fidesz has provided many citizens from neighboring countries, some of whom are unable to speak Hungarian, with a fake Hungarian address in order to give them the chance to participate in the elections. This has been a regular practice in eastern and southern Hungary, where a few dozen voters can tilt the result in favor of the Fidesz candidate in smaller districts.
 
The procedures for the registration of voters or voting have systemic discriminatory effects. De facto, a substantial number of adult citizens are excluded from national elections.
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