Electoral Processes


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

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.
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.

Absentee voting and voting by mail are common and easily accessed. Australian citizens living abroad are eligible (but not required) to vote if they intend to return to Australia within six years.

In late 2021, the Morrison government sought to introduce voter identification requirements, ostensibly to reduce voter fraud. However, the Labor Party, Greens and a number of independents opposed the move on the basis that it represented an effort to suppress voting rather than an effort to reduce fraudulent voting.
Proposed voter ID law: https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Bills_Legislation/Bills_Search_Results/Result?bId=r6811
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 online. The amendments to the Referendum Act and the election acts (2021) allow voters to choose the most convenient polling station in their electoral district.

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 e-mail about all voting options, including the voting day, the location and opening hours of polling places in their municipality.

To facilitate participation in elections, Estonia uses advanced-voting, home-voting and internet-voting. Advanced voting is open for six days prior to election day. Advanced voting and online voting are increasingly popular. In the 2021 municipal elections, 39% of all votes were cast prior the voting day, while 47% were cast 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.
https://www.valimised.ee/en/voting-polling-places-becomes-more-flexible-year (visited 22.12.2021)
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.
Dag Anckar and Carsten Anckar, “Finland,” in Dieter Nohlen and Philip Stöver, eds. Elections in Europe. A Data Handbook, Nomos, 2010.
German citizens (Basic Law, Art. 116 sec. 1) aged 18 or older are eligible to vote and run for election to the Bundestag (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). Between the 2017 and 2021 general election, the legal framework has been amended to permit citizens under custodianship due to psychosocial disability to vote, which returned voting rights to about 80,000 citizens (OSCE 2021). Citizens permanently residing abroad are eligible to vote if they have three months of continual residence in Germany within the last 25 years (after reaching the age of 14). Additionally, citizens who have never resided in Germany are eligible to vote by postal vote if they can demonstrate their connection to the country and familiarity with the political situation, and are affected by it. The new government announced plans to make it easier for Germans living abroad to exercise their right to vote and to lower the voting age to 16 years (Koalitionsvertrag 2021: 12). The latter would need an amendment of the Basic Law.
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 voting by post. For the September 2021 election and in the context of the pandemic, the share of postal votes reached a record of 47.3%, up from 28.6% in 2017 (Bundeswahlleiter 2021a). While postal voting was conducted smoothly, there was a local problem with electoral districts in Berlin involving insufficient ballots and a lack of administrative staff, which led to long waiting times. The Federal Election Supervisor has officially challenged the results of six Berlin constituencies with the complaint that citizens were effectively denied their right to cast their vote (Bundeswahlleiter 2021b).
Bundeswahlleiter (2021a): Bundestagswahl 2021: Anteil der Briefwählerinnen und Briefwähler bei 47,3 %, Pressemitteilung Nr. 53/21 vom 15. Oktober 2021.

Bundeswahlleiter (2021b). Bundestagswahl 2021: Bundeswahlleiter legt Einspruch in sechs Berliner Wahlkreisen ein, Pressemitteilung Nr. 54/21 vom 19. November 2021.

Koalitionsvertrag (2021): Mehr Fortschritt wagen, Bündnis für Freiheit, Gerechtigkeit und Nachhaltigkeit, Koalitionsvertrag zwischen SPD, Bündnis 90/Die Grünen und FDP.

OSCE (2021): Federal Republic of Germany. Elections to the Federal Parliament (Bundestag). 26 September 2021, ODIHR Needs Assessment Mission Report, 22 July.
Voting in Greece is mandatory by law. However, it is rarely enforced. 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.

Since 2016, the minimum voting age has been lowered to 17 years. A new, additional electoral registration process was rolled out in 2021. In the period under review, the Greek government started a campaign to implement a law, passed in December 2019, that facilitates participation in elections for Greek voters residing abroad. Owing to multiple waves of emigration from Greece in the previous century and to the “brain drain” in the wake of the recent economic crisis, a very large number of registered voters still reside abroad and until recently had to come back to Greece to exercise their right to vote.

The law of December 2019 provided for the creation of special electoral registers for such Greek voters in their countries of residence. Anyone who had lived in Greece for a total of two years in the span of the last 35 years and who had filed a tax declaration in Greece in the current or previous tax year was eligible to be included in the special electoral registers.
The law facilitating the registration of voters living abroad was L. 4648/2019.
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%, turnout increased in 2014 for the first time since 2005. This positive trend continued with turnout for the 2017 election (79.8%) and the 2020 election (82%). Turnout rose in 2020 despite the fact that the election had to be postponed due to a COVID-19 lockdown, from 19 September to 17 October 2020. Almost 2 million votes were cast in advance of election day – a significant jump from previous early voting numbers in the 2017 (1.24 million) and 2014 (718,000) elections (New Zealand Herald 2020).

In late 2020, the government responded to a recommendation by the Waitangi Tribunal calling for a removal of the blanket ban on prisoners’ voting rights. The Tribunal found the ban had affected Māori disproportionally (in 2018, Māori were 11.4 times more likely than non-Māori to have been removed from the electoral roll). Under the new legislation, prisoners serving less than three years can vote in the general election (Foon 2020).
Foon (2020) “‘Every vote counts’: Prisoner voting rights returned.” RNZ. https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/428367/every-vote-counts-prisoner-voting-rights-returned

New Zealand Herald (2020) “Record numbers vote early in 2020 New Zealand election - almost 2 million.” https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/record-numbers-vote-early-in-2020-new-zealand-election-almost-2-million/XHBAMERHAXPH4MX5DLDPH3TMMU/
All Norwegian citizens who are 18 years old or older have the right to vote in parliamentary elections. In local elections, individuals without Norwegian citizenship aged 18 years or older who have resided in Norway for at least three years have the right to vote. The three-year rule does not apply to Nordic citizens with a permanent residence in Norway. 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 mail-in-ballot 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.
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.
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).
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% (Valmyndigheten, 2021).
Valmyndigheten. 2021. “Valresultat.” https://www.val.se/valresultat.html
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.
Source: Adrian Vatter 2018: Swiss Federalism. The Transformation of a Federal Model. Routledge: New York/London
Voter registration is passive and based on the unified population register maintained by municipalities. Voters residing abroad who wish to receive the ballot are required to actively register. Up to 1 million citizens reside outside of the Netherlands, but only some 80,000 requested to be registered for the upcoming elections.
Contrary to other civil rights, the right to vote in national, provincial or water board elections is restricted to 13 million 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.

Characteristic of the high level of trust in election procedures in the Netherlands is the fact that the law regulates complaints and appeals regarding specific parts of the electoral process, such as voter registration, registration of party names, candidate registration and election day proceedings, but there are no specific rules or regulations permitting judicial appeals to other crucial aspects, including campaign finance, campaigning and challenges to the election results.

After the national elections held during the pandemic on 17 March 2021, which entailed special health measures such as postal voting inside the country and social distancing, several changes in the voting procedure have been considered. Proposals have included a change making voting possible over the course of several days, limiting the number of proxy vote authorizations, and adapting ballot design to the increase in the number of political parties on the ballot.
art J24 Kieswet: http://wetten.overheid.nl/BWBR0004627/AfdelingII/HoofdstukJ/6/ArtikelJ24/geldigheidsdatum_24-05-2013

art 1 Wet op Indentificatieplicht:

OSCE, Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, The Netherlands, Parliamentary Elections March 17 2021, ODHIRNeeds Assessment Report 19-22 January 2021

NRC, ten Velde, 13 October 2021 Nieuw stembiljet, extra stemdagen
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 years old to vote (which is exceptionally inclusive by international standards). The country has made efforts to allow non-resident citizens to vote from overseas. All Austrian citizens living abroad may register to vote in a region they previously lived in or have a close relationship with; registration is valid for 10 years.

Absentee/postal voting was introduced in 2007, with the number of postal votes continuously rising ever since. There is a particular political element involved in absentee/postal voting as some social segments are more likely to make use of this opportunity than others, which plays to the advantage of some parties and to the disadvantage of others. However, this cannot be avoided and should not be considered as a form of unequal opportunity.

There are currently 1.1 million permanent residents (accounting for one-eighth of the country’s total population) which do not have any voting rights at national elections. While this is quite common by international standards, the relative difficulty in obtaining Austrian citizenship, and thus voting rights, represents a problematic aspect. In 2019, the exclusion of resident non-citizens became for the first time a political issue and this debate has continued ever since, with strongly diverging views between different parties. The registration of non-citizen residents to vote in local and European elections (provided residents are citizens of another EU member state) is possible and has not caused any major problems.

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.
All Canadian citizens 18 years and over have the right to vote. Permanent residents do not have the right to vote at any level of government. 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. Canadian citizens 18 years and over must be registered in order to vote. 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). This is generally done through checking a box on the tax return form but can also be done online or by mail. Additionally, Canada allows for in-person registration after an election is called. 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. Typically reserved for Canadians living abroad and Canadians with disabilities, voting by mail was extended to all Canadians for the 2021 federal elections held during the pandemic, after they applied online, by phone, or in person.

The Harper Conservative government, through the Fair Elections Act (2014), made some highly controversial changes to Canada’s election laws. These changes, which were seen by many as making it harder for disadvantaged Canadians to vote, were repealed by the subsequent Liberal government through the Elections Modernization Act (2019). This legislation allows voter information cards to be recognized as an acceptable form of identification, and it restores the rights of Canadians living abroad to vote no matter how long they have lived outside the country.
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; EU citizens who are only temporary residents of Czechia can at least 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. Postal ballot provision is included in the Fiala government manifesto. With a view to the COVID-19 pandemic, a special drive-thru voting option was established for the 2020 regional and Senate elections, and the 2021 parliamentary elections in order to enable those in quarantine to vote.
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.
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).
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 from the age of 18 enjoys rights that are provided by the constitution. This includes expats and convicts. There is no option to vote by mail, but expats can either vote in offices abroad (consulates or embassies) or by delegating power to a designated person in France. 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. Registration only requires an ID. It is usually estimated that some 10% of the electorate is not registered. This group essentially consists of two main groups: those who refuse to vote and those who have changed residence and subsequently neglected to register in their new place of residence.
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 aged 18 or over 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 a valid government identification with the voter’s name and picture. In addition, the Basic Law: The Knesset defines the day of the national elections as a national holiday, with public transportation and public services open, thus giving voters a positive (or, at least, not a negative) incentive to vote.

The right to vote in Israel applies also to prisoners. Handicapped citizens are entitled to special voting stations that are adequately equipped, thus simplifying their voting process by using double envelopes. Soldiers on 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.
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)
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. Italian citizens residing abroad must enroll in a special register and can choose to vote in Italy or to vote by mail. Four special electoral districts exist for different parts of the world. There are no significant complaints about the process.

Polling stations are very numerous and typically very near to places of residence. National 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.
All citizens who are over the age of 18 on election day are eligible to vote. Citizens living abroad may vote if they preregister. Several proposals for the introduction of internet-based voting have been rejected by the parliament, although this issue continues 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. 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 or European parliament elections, or the 2020 parliamentary elections. The parliamentary elections in autumn 2020 took place amid the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. A longer period of early voting was allowed, with more polling stations established, and social distancing measures and drive-through voting for voters in self-isolation were enacted during the voting on election day. As observed by the OSCE, voters were afforded ample opportunities to cast ballots.
OSCE/ODIHR Lithuania, Parliamentary Elections, 11 and 25 October 2020: Final Report, see https://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/lithuania/477730
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.
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 ahead of the 2022 legislative elections indicated that there are potentially 1 million more people on voter registration lists for Portugal than there are in the voting age population, potentially inflating the electoral register by 10%.

As noted in previous reports, this difference appears to reflect 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.
Lei Orgânica nº 3/2018 [Law no. 3/2018], available online at: https://dre.pt/application/conteudo/116090196

Ledo, W. (2022), “Legislativas: há um milhão de “eleitores-fantasma” a engordar a abstenção,” CNN Portugal, available online at: https://cnnportugal.iol.pt/decisao-22/eleicoes-legislativas/legislativas-ha-um-milhao-de-eleitores-fantasma-a-engordar-a-abstencao/20220102/61cdca340cf2cc58e7da26e6
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.

In the 2020 parliamentary election campaign, some controversies over the voting rights of citizens living abroad emerged. When the voter turnout among Slovak migrants turned out to be higher than usual, the Minister of Interior, Denisa Saková (Smer-SD), made the dubious attempt to mobilize domestic voters by stating that the elections should not be decided by those having lived abroad for a long time (Slovak Spectator 2020). Of course, her main fear was that most of the Slovaks abroad would not vote for the governing coalition, but for opposition parties. Before the elections, some voters complained that they had received incomplete sets of ballots for voting by mail (Hrabovská Francelová 2020).
Hrabovská Francelová, N. (2020). Election by mail: Some Slovaks received incomplete sets of ballots, in: Slovak Spectator, January 29 ( https://spectator.sme.sk/c/22313441/parliamentary-election-2020-some-slovaks-got -incomplete-set-of-ballots.html?ref=av-center).

N.N. (2020): Initiative questions interior minister’s warning against votes from abroad, in: Slovak Spectator, February 10 (https://spectator.sme.sk/c/22322294/initiative-questions-interior-ministers-warning-against-votes-from-abroad.html).
South Korea
All citizens of South Korea aged 18 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. The voting age was lowered from 19 to 18 in December 2019. There had been growing public support for this change since the candlelight demonstrations against President Park in 2016 – 2017. Overseas citizens are 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. However, voter turnout rates among foreigners are still low. 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, who have violated election laws, who have committed specified crimes while holding one of a set of public offices, and who have violated the law on political foundations or specific other laws. National elections are national holidays, making it easier for all citizens to vote. Citizens can appeal to the National Election Commission and the courts if they feel they have been discriminated against.
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.
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
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.

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, 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. 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. In February 2021, the government parties submitted a legislative initiative to reform the electoral law so as to remove these obstacles. In September 2021, PSOE and PP made a parliamentary agreement to promote the reform.

Ahead of regional elections in the Basque Country and Galicia, the question of how to avoid the disenfranchisement of COVID-19-positive voters was vigorously debated. In Galicia and the Basque Country, both governments decided not to allow those who had tested positive for COVID-19 to vote if the deadline for postal voting had already expired. Home voting was not considered by electoral authorities.

In the 2021 regional elections in Catalonia and Madrid, these concerns decreased. They did not have a differential impact in turnout (very low in Catalonia, very high in Madrid).
OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (2019), Spain Early Parliamentary Elections, https://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/spain/416252
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 were also entitled to vote as a consequence of EU membership. Entitlement to vote thus extends beyond British citizenship. As a government document explains, following Brexit, EU citizens already resident before the end of December 2020 will continue to be granted voting privileges. However, for those arriving later, voting rights will only be accorded if their home country allows the same rights to UK citizens. The bill to enact this is expected to become law in 2022.

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. Citizens who have left the country for more than 15 years lose the right to vote in UK parliamentary elections – a regulation due to be abolished in the Elections Bill currently before parliament.

This new Elections Bill, however, has also met a lot of criticism, because it will require photo ID for voting (endangering the vote of citizens without such a document) and impose regulations on the independent Electoral Commission, and it received insufficient consultation and parliamentary scrutiny. The report by the House of Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee recommended, therefore, that the government should not proceed with the proposal, because its enactment might risk endangering trust in elections in the United Kingdom. The Electoral Reform Society also foresees lots of problems and has asked for the bill to be reconsidered.
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.
Law No. 20,568, enacted in January 2012, and Law No. 20,669, enacted in April 2013, changed the voter registration system. Voluntary registration and subsequent compulsory voting were replaced with automatic registration and voluntary right to vote for citizens older than 18 years. This reform led to a higher participation rate among younger and especially first-time voters in the 2013 presidential elections. This law also introduced assisted voting for citizens with disabilities.

Law No. 20,568 also eliminated penalties previously imposed on registered voters who did not vote and who 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, a tendency which was confirmed in the presidential election of 2017 as well as in the first regional governor elections in 2021. Nevertheless, with voter-turnout rates of 55.64% in the 2021 presidential runoff, the rate increased to an all-time high since voting became voluntary. At the same time, a controversy was generated on the day of the presidential elections due to the alleged lack of public transportation in some municipalities, a service that is guaranteed to be free of charge during the hours in which the polling locations are open.

Since April 2014, Chileans living abroad have been automatically registered to vote if they are registered correctly in SERVEL database. 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 elections for the National Congress or in 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 awaiting judgment that remain on remand lose in practice lose their right to vote because administrative and infrastructural barriers impede their participation in elections, according to a study conducted by the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights in September 2020.
Chilean Electoral Service (Servicio Electoral de Chile, Servel), www.servel.cl, last accessed: 13 January 2022.

On voters abroad:
Library of the National Congress (Biblioteca del Congreso Naiconal, BCN), http://www.bcn.cl/leyfacil/recurso/voto-de-chilenos-en-el-extranjero, last accessed: 13 January 2022.
Chilean Electoral Service (Servicio Electoral de Chile, Servel), Voto exterior, https://www.servel.cl/voto-exterior/, last accessed: 16 Februrary 2022.

About suffrage of prisoners:
Centro de Investigación Periodística (CIPER), “Voto preso: los resquicios ilegales que usa el Estado para evitar que los presos sufraguen”, 16 April 2021, https://www.ciperchile.cl/2021/04/16/voto-preso-los-resquicios-ilegales-que-usa-el-estado-para-evitar-que-los-presos-sufraguen, last accessed: 13 January 2022.

Ministry of Justice and Human Rights (Ministerio de Justicia y Derechos Humanos), “Sufragio de personas privadas de libertad” September 2020, https://www.minjusticia.gob.cl/informes-de-estudios/documentos-uic, last accessed: 13 January 2022.
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.

The biggest shortcoming related to voting and registration rights relates to the unequal number of voters per constituency. When the proportional electoral system for parliamentary elections was introduced in 2000, 10 constituencies were established, and the law stipulated that the number of voters in those constituencies should not deviate by plus or minus 5% from the average across all constituencies. Even in the first elections under the current law, held in January 2000, three units jumped more than plus or minus 5% of the average unit, and in the last three parliamentary elections, held in 2015, 2016 and 2020, deviation in the number of voters of at least this amount was present in eight out of 10 units. The inequality in constituencies is due to mass emigration from several counties in the eastern area of Slavonia, and in the central part along the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Due to such inequalities between constituencies, different results were obtained from some constituencies than would have been the case if they had been uniform, and many members of the Croatian parliament entered who would not otherwise have been elected. Political scientist Goran Čular, who researched the topic, concluded that up to three mandates per elections went to some parties solely due to the inequality of constituencies. As a proposal, he pointed out the possibility of designing constituencies with different numbers of deputies, according to the number of voters, or to create a new structure of constituencies and reduce their number.

Upon coming to office in October 2016, Prime Minister Plenković said the government would address the problem of the large differences in the number of voters per constituency, a fundamental flaw in the electoral system in Croatia. In the period under review, however, no changes were initiated.
Čular, G. (2018) Metodološki izazovi ustavnog sudovanja: učinci podjele na izborne jedinice na rezultate izbora u Hrvatskoj 2000-2016. (Methodological Challenges of Constitutional Judgement: Effects of Apportionment on Electoral Results in Croatia, 2000-2016), in: Anali Hrvatskog politološkog društva 15(1): 7-28.
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 resident in Ireland 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, with the likes of diplomats, civil servants and members of the defense forces posted abroad having access to postal voting. Irish citizens living abroad for other reasons do not tend to have access to postal voting and must return to Ireland to cast a vote. This limited access to overseas voting makes Ireland an outlier in Europe in this regard. The Constitutional Convention also recommended a reduction of the voting age to 16, and the government is considering reducing the voting age for local and European elections in time for the 2024 elections (Oir, 2016). Students living in Ireland but away from where they are registered to vote due to their studies also have access to postal voting. Some people with certain disabilities or who are unable to access a voting place can arrange to do so at home in the presence of a member of the Gardaí (the national policy).

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 in 2012 – 2014 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 and this matter has fallen from public discourse.

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.

Building on commitments dating back to 2015, under the Programme for Government, an independent electoral commission is planned to oversee the conduct of all elections in the state, with the heads of a bill published in January 2021.

The Electoral Commission will be independent of government, reporting directly to the Oireachtas and will take on several existing statutory electoral functions. These functions will include responsibility for the registration of political parties; the work currently carried out by referendum commissions, constituency commissions and local electoral area boundary committees; the regulation of online political advertising during electoral periods; oversight of the Electoral Register; and a new public information, research and advisory role in relation to electoral matters (DHLGH, 2021).

There was a small change to the layout of the ballot paper first introduced in 2016, which is intended 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.

Six members of Seanad Éireann, the upper house of parliament, are elected by certain university graduates, with three each representing graduates of Trinity College Dublin and the National University of Ireland constituency. The exclusive nature of this enfranchisement for some university graduates is only heightened by the fact that graduates from most higher education institutions in the country are not included. For decades, there has been talk of reforming these constituencies. A 2013 referendum to abolish the Seanad outright that was brought by the government was defeated by 51.73% to 48.27%.
Convention on the Constitution: www.constitution.ie

Farrell,D. (2015), ‘Conclusion and Reflection: Time for an Electoral Commission for Ireland,’ Irish Political Studies 30:4, 641-646.

DHLGH (2021) Electoral Commission, Department of Housing Local Government and Heritage, 31 March, available at: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/0a17c-electoral-commission/

Farrell,D. (2015), ‘Conclusion and Reflection: Time for an Electoral Commission for Ireland,’ Irish Political Studies 30:4, 641-646.

McGee, H. (2013) Reduction of voting age from 18 to 16 to be put to referendum, The Irish Times, 10 July, available at: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/reduction-of-voting-age-from-18-to-16-to-be-put-to-referendum-1.1458229

Oir (2016) Electoral (Amendment) (Voting at 16) Bill 2016, available at: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/bills/bill/2016/63/

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
The Japanese constitution grants universal adult suffrage to all Japanese citizens. The voting age was lowered from 20 to 18 in 2015. 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, a malapportionment that has historically favored the ruling LDP. Vote disparities concerning lower house electoral districts had been reduced by means of redistricting in 2017 but climbed back to slightly more than 2:1 in 31 of the 289 single-seat constituencies before the lower house election held in October 2021.

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.
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/

Vote disparity gap widens again ahead of Lower House election, The Asahi Shimbun, 20 October 2021, https://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/14464524
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 (10.1% of the total population in 2021) 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.
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: 04.01.2022.

2. Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs (2021), Natural Persons Register: Statistics. Available at (in Latvian): https://www.pmlp.gov.lv/lv/fizisko-personu-registra-statistika-2021-gada?utm_source=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2F, Last accessed 02.01.2022.
The voting age is 18, and once a citizen is registered on the electoral lists, voting is mandatory. Voters above the age of 75 are exempt from this obligation. In theory, unjustified abstentions are punishable by a fine; however, this disposition has not been enforced for several decades now. The electoral system is considered to be strong and fair. However, the parliamentary elections held on 14 October 2018 highlighted a number of problems due both to the division of the country into four electoral districts, and to the method of calculation used to determine the allocation of seats. Thus, small parties were at a disadvantage.

Luxembourg’s local polls (“élections communales”) take place every six years, and are used to elect councilors for each of the country’s 102 communes. Foreign nationals are able to participate in the local and European elections, provided that they have resided in the Grand Duchy for five years and have signed up to vote. In September 2021, Minister for Home Affairs Taina Bofferding, Minister for Family Affairs Corinne Cahen and Minister of Justice Sam Tanson announced changes to the electoral and municipality laws. Thus, the five-year residency requirement for foreign nationals is to be dropped, and the delay to register on the lists is to be reduced to 55 days prior to vote. Foreigners will also be allowed to stand for election at the municipal level if they have lived in the municipality for at least six months. The next legislative and communal elections will both take place in 2023. These changes at the municipal level can be expected to lead to more involvement by foreign residents at the level of municipalities. At the level of the national parliament, the many foreigners living in Luxembourg remain unrepresented.

Citizens are not allowed to observe the process of counting votes. Political parties may, however, nominate witnesses to oversee the vote-counting process.
“La loi électorale sera réformée afin de faciliter la participation des citoyens non-luxembourgeois.” Stradalex (2 September 2021). https://www.stradalex.lu/fr/slu_news/document/slu_news_article20210908-1-fr. Accessed 14 January 2022.

“Élections législatives, communales et européennes.” Official elections website of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. http://data.legilux.public.lu/file/eli-etat-leg-recueil-elections-20180625-fr-pd f.pdf. Accessed 14 January 2022.

“Projet de loi portant modification de la loi électorale modifiée du 18 février 2003.” Chambre des Députés. No.7877. Session ordinaire 2020-2021. https://img.100komma7.lu/uploads/media/default/0002/33/245154_1a2fbd.pdf. Accessed 14 January 2022.
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 nationals living abroad have been able to avail themselves of subsidized travel for voting purposes. Overseas Maltese cannot as yet vote at embassies. Although this capability has long been discussed, nothing has yet transpired. The need to change the system and allow voting overseas is now critical since the pandemic has restricted travel. 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 the first time in the European and local council elections of May 2019. In 2022, as a result of the pandemic, the Electoral Commission is setting up a system to ensure that all individuals in quarantine can vote.
In Freedom in the World 2021, Malta scored four out of four for free and fair elections.
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
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
Malta Independent 26/03/19 PD requests extension of voter registration period
Freedom in the World 2021
VOLT MALTA 28/09/21 Amidst pandemic restrictions Malta should legalize voting in election from abroad Volt Malta says
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 online to see if they are on the lists. 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. However, concerns persist as to whether persons without a permanent address (about 1% of the population), most of them Roma, are not registered in voter lists. Bulgarian citizens residing abroad have the right to vote in parliamentary and presidential elections, as well as in national referendums. In May 2021, the electoral code was amended to introduce electronic voting for most voters and to remove the limitations on the total number of polling stations that can be established abroad. There were no reports of irregularities affecting the implementation of electronic voting during the parliamentary elections in November 2021.

Contrary to ECHR recommendations, people serving prison sentences are not allowed to vote. Citizens can obtain permits to vote outside of their permanent place of residence
OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights: Republic of Bulgaria. Early Parliamentary Elections 11 July 2021. ODIHR Limited Election Observation Mission Final Report, Warsaw, 22 October 2021. https://www.osce.org/files/f/documents/8/b/502110.pdf
Voting ceased to be mandatory since 2017. Exercising voting rights requires registration on the electoral roll. Despite amendments aiming to facilitate participation, registration deadline may be 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. Grouping voters in distant polling stations seems to favor abstention. Overseas voting since 2011 is organized in some cities in Europe and elsewhere. Only 7% of Turkish Cypriots living in the areas not under the Cypriot government’s control voted in the 2019 European Parliament elections. A Turkish Cypriot was among the six candidates 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 European Parliament elections.

To overcome problems caused by the COVID-19 restrictions, legal amendments enabled voting by affected persons and expats.

In September 2021, under the pretext of working on the (long-standing) local government reform, the government and the parliament suspended for 30 months municipal, communal and school council elections.
1. Local government elections postponed until May 2024, Financial Mirror, 17 September 2021 https://www.financialmirror.com/2021/09/17/local-government-elections-postponed-until-may-2024/
Political liberties are guaranteed by law, and public debate and electoral competition are meaningful. If political rights are violated, citizens have access to electoral courts which are generally professional and effective. The National Electoral Institute (INE) is an independent body responsible for the administration of elections.

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 (TEPJF), 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. President López Obrador frequently criticizes INE, charging that the INE and its predecessor were unfair to him in the 2006 and 2012 presidential elections, and asserts that both INE and the electoral court (TEPJF) have become too large and powerful. Opposition parties accuse the government of animosity due to the fact that INE has fined MORENA several times for various violations of electoral rules. The government wants to replace INE and TEPJF, but lacks a sufficiently large majority in Congress to be able to effect such a change.

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 ballot boxes by armed groups. A major problem is violence. During the midterm elections in 2021, dozens of candidates were killed. Most of the candidates are presumed to have been murdered by organized criminal gangs.
Miranda, Fernando (28 de junio de 2018). «Acaban campañas con récord en el nivel de violencia». El Universal.
Almost all adult citizens above 18 years of age in Poland have the right to vote. While there are some controversial restrictions for people with disabilities, there is no blanket disenfranchisement of convicts or individuals who have been declared incapacitated. 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 to 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 residing abroad have tended to be critical of the PiS in previous elections, the amendment has been regarded as strongly biased in favor of the PiS.

The PiS’s instrumental approach towards postal voting became evident in the case of the 2020 president election (OSCE/ OHDIR 2020; Tatarczyk/ Wojtasik 2022). Because of President Duda’s strong showing in the polls and the opposition’s low visibility during the lockdown, the PiS, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, long advocated sticking to the scheduled date of May 10 for the election. The government’s desire to take advantage of the situation figured prominently in delaying any declaration of a state of emergency, which would have made it impossible to hold elections. Although previously critical of postal voting, the government introduced a bill making it possible. As it was constitutionally impossible to change the format of an election at such short notice, this step met with strong criticism even inside the governing coalition. As a result, the election was postponed to June, and a mix of postal and in-person voting was applied.

After the election, around 6,000 complaints were submitted regarding difficulties in voter registration, on-time deliveries from ballot boxes and votes from abroad. They had to be directed to the Supreme Court within seven days of the election result’s announcement. The Supreme Court ruled that the election procedures were legitimate and that President Duda, who won with a margin of only 500,000 votes, was correctly elected. The fact that the new president of the court has been close to the government has cast some doubt on the independence of the court’s decision.
OSCE/ ODIHR (2020): Special Election Assessment Mission Final Report: Republic of Poland, Presidential Election, 28 June and 12 July 2020. Warsaw (https://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/poland/464601).

Tatarczyk, D., W. Wojtasik (2022): The Incumbency Advantage during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Examining the 2020 Polish Presidential Election, in: East European Politics and Societies and Cultures, forthcoming (https://doi.org/10.1177/08883254221085307).
Romanians enjoy relatively free and open access to the right to vote across the country. In September 2020, 19 million registered voters participated in elections for more than 43,000 local officials across the country, including council presidents and mayors. Just a couple of months later in December 2020, voters again went to the polls for a parliamentary election. While the right to vote is broadly available to eligible adults, only 31.84% of the eligible population voted. This is down from 39.49% in 2016 and represents a collapse in public confidence in the political class, its institutions and the government more broadly.
Parliamentary elections were held on 5 and 6 December 2020. On 17 January 2021, the think-tank Expert Forum published a report on the poll. While the authorities’ efforts to enable quarantined and isolated voters to vote were more visible than they were for the subsequent local elections, there were problems with using the special ballot box and protective masks. The report also indicated that the transparency of the process was significantly diminished due to the fact that the meetings of constituency electoral offices were not public.
Raport De Monitorizare Raport final privind observarea alegerilor parlamentare 5-6 decembrie 2020 – FiecareVot” [Monitoring Report Final report on the observation of the parliamentary elections 5-6 December 2020 – EveryVote], Expert Forum, 17 January 2021, https://expertforum.ro/raport-parlamentare-2020/

“AEP: Aproape 3.400 de acţiuni de control la competitorii electorali realizate în 2019 şi 2020” [AEP: Nearly 3,400 control actions on electoral contestants carried out in 2019 and 2020], Agerpres, 2 August 2021, https://www.agerpres.ro/politica/2021/08/02/aep-aproape-3-400-de-actiuni-de-control-la-competitorii-electorali-realizate-in-2019-si-2020–757268
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.
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 allowing Turkish citizens who are not living or present in Turkey during elections to vote (Law 5749). 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. 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.
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
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. But in 2013, the United States Super Court held it is unconstitutional to use the coverage formula of the Voting Rights Act, thereby abolishing the control function of the Justice Department in case of electoral reforms in southern states.

As a result, 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 recent federal 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 did not challenge such voting restrictions but, during the Trump years, federal courts, responding to appeals brought on by other parties, blocked several of these restrictions. Still, the Republican party has adopted as a standard party strategy the suppression of low-income and minority votes by any legal means. Democrats at the state level and in Congress as well as the Biden administration have criticized and mobilized against this strategy. Yet, as of late January 2022, the lack of a significant Democratic majority in the Senate stalled the enactment of major federal voting rights legislation.
Registration and voting procedures for the parliamentary elections in Hungary have been heavily tilted in favor of the governing Fidesz party. This has been a major reason for Fidesz’s victories in the 2014 and 2018 parliamentary elections. 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. In order to cast their votes, they often have to travel long distances and to stand in long queues.

Voter registration has suffered from other weaknesses and manipulations. In the past, Fidesz provided many Hungarians with dual citizenship resident in neighboring countries, some of whom are unable to speak Hungarian, with a fake Hungarian address in order to that they may participate in municipal elections, and vote in single-mandate constituencies as well as for party lists during parliamentary elections. This practice has been made easier by a controversial 2021 amendment to the Law on the Records of Citizens’ Personal Data and Address. By changing the definition of address from the place where citizens regularly live to the address used for communication with the state, the new provisions have made it easier for Hungarians living abroad to claim addresses in the country as well for citizens living in Hungary to register strategically in electoral districts with uncertain outcomes (“vox tourism”). The problems with voter registration are further aggravated by the fact that the registration of voters without domicile in Hungary is valid for 10 years. Since there is no list of those who have died – tens of thousands of people by estimation – and no control over the personal identity of those who vote by mail, their names can easily be misused.
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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