2024 European elections: Can expatriates vote?

Features
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Published on 2024-05-29 at 10:00 by Asaël Häzaq
One of the most anticipated elections of the year is approaching. Will the European Union (EU) emerge from these elections more divided, or will it strengthen its unity? As we await the final predictions and, more importantly, the first results, let's examine the voting procedures. What conditions must expatriates meet to vote in the European elections? Are European expatriates living within or outside the EU treated the same way?

Who can vote in the European elections?

The countdown has begun. From June 6 to 9, European citizens will vote to elect representatives to the European Parliament. This is the only EU body elected by direct universal suffrage. The 2024-2029 mandate will have 720 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), up from 705 today.

Each EU country can choose its election day within the June 6 to 9 window. Voting will be conducted according to the rules established by each country. In Belgium, Luxembourg, and Greece, for example, voting is mandatory. Some countries, such as the Czech Republic, Ireland, Malta, and Slovakia, do not allow voting from abroad.

Only European citizens can vote in the European elections

Under the Maastricht Treaty, anyone who holds the nationality of one of the 27 EU member states is automatically a European citizen. European citizens can vote and be eligible for municipal and European elections in their country of residence. European citizenship does not replace national citizenship but grants additional rights, including the right to vote and be elected.

However, European citizens cannot vote in two EU countries simultaneously. They must vote in the municipality where they are registered on the electoral rolls.

What are the requirements to vote?

To vote, one must be a European citizen, at least 18 years old, and registered on an electoral roll (registrations are already closed; the voter must request registration). Voters must also enjoy their civil and political rights. It is not necessary to be in one's home country to vote.

Registration for a European expat in the EU

To vote in their European country of residence, European expats must register on the electoral rolls of their municipality. If they wish to vote for representatives of their home country, they must register on the consular electoral roll.

Registration for a European expat in a non-EU country

European expatriates in a non-EU country must register on the consular electoral roll (either online or in person at the embassy or consulate).

How to verify your registration on the electoral rolls

In the event of a move within the EU, it can be challenging to remember where one registered on the electoral rolls. This information is crucial as it determines where the European citizen will vote. To find out, contact the administrative services of your country of residence (or last country of residence). They often have an online service to verify if you are already registered on an electoral roll.

It is prohibited to vote for representatives of both the host country and the home country. Double voting is a criminal offense punishable by several years in prison and a heavy fine.

Can you vote for candidates from your home country?

Yes, but it depends on the municipality where you registered on the electoral rolls. For example, an Italian citizen living in another EU country can choose to register on the consular electoral roll to vote for the Italian constituency: during the vote, they will select a list from their home country.

However, European citizens need to ensure that they are not already registered on the electoral roll of their country of residence in the EU. In case of double registration, the residence country's registration prevails (double registration is prohibited). In this case, the Italian citizen would have to vote for representatives of their host country, not their home country. To continue voting for their home country representatives despite living in a foreign country, they must first request to be removed from the electoral rolls of the host country and then register on the consular list. If the Italian citizen moved to a non-European country, they will directly request registration on the consular list.

Can European expatriates in a non-EU country vote?

Yes. To vote, European expatriates must register at their consulate or embassy in the country of residence or complete the process online. Registration on the consular electoral roll will allow them to vote for representatives of their home country.

To register, the European citizen must provide an electoral roll registration form, an identity document, and proof of residence in the host country: water, electricity, or gas bill in the citizen's name, pay slips, tax notice, etc. If the citizen is hosted by family members, they must include a letter (written by the concerned relative) attesting to the situation. If hosted by friends, they must provide a pay slip in addition to the letter.

Can non-European expatriates with permanent residency in an EU country vote in the European elections?

To vote in the European elections, one must acquire European citizenship (and thus the nationality of an EU member state). Holding a residence permit does not grant nationality. Non-European permanent residents cannot vote in the European elections.

Is voting information accessible in an easy-to-read format?

Committed to promoting inclusion, the EU has developed its content in an "easy-to-read" version. It supports the Inclusion Europe service, which advocates for equal rights between European citizens with disabilities and others. The European elections website is available in an easy-to-read version. Candidate programs will also be available in this version.

Solutions to facilitate voting for European citizens with disabilities

According to Eurostat, about 100 million European citizens had a disability in 2022. However, Krzysztof Pater, Vice-President of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), estimates that around 400,000 of them are denied the right to vote. Inclusion Europe, a European association for people with intellectual disabilities, counts about 20 million European citizens with intellectual disabilities. Among them are people who need the assistance of a guardian to vote.

The problem is that some countries deny them this right, arguing that only one person can enter the voting booth. This prohibition is in force in Denmark, Estonia, Hungary, Portugal, and Slovenia. Only four EU countries fully grant voting rights to intellectually disabled voters: Finland, Spain, France, and Sweden.

Access to polling stations also raises questions. In principle, polling stations and voting techniques should be accessible to voters, regardless of their disability. In practice, the EESC notes a lack of commitment from states to "guarantee the voting rights of people with disabilities."

Who can vote by proxy?

Proxy voting is possible for all European citizens, whether or not they live in their country. European expatriates living in another EU country can appoint a proxy. The same right is granted to European expatriates living in a non-EU country. It is possible to give a proxy to anyone who can vote in the European elections.

Note:

Many countries, such as Italy, Estonia, Greece, Cyprus, Croatia, Malta, Luxembourg, Denmark, Germany, Portugal, and Spain, do not allow proxy voting in European elections. Spain and Luxembourg offer postal voting if people are unable to go to the polling station.

However, the proxy must vote at the polling station where the principal is registered. This explains why many people prefer to appoint family members, friends, or neighbors as their proxies.

Expatriates in an EU country

The request is made via a form, usually available online and in paper format at the police station, gendarmerie, or judicial court. The principal (the expatriate requesting the proxy) must provide:

  • Their voter number;
  • The voter number, birth date, name, and surname of the proxy.

The principal will receive a reference number, which they will present at the court, police, or gendarmerie. They must also bring their identity document. The notification validating the proxy will be sent by email.

Expatriates in a non-EU country

The form is also available online or in paper format at the consulate or embassy. The principal must provide the same information required for expatriates in an EU country. They will receive a reference number, which they will present at the embassy or consulate with their identity document. In both cases, it is advisable to request the proxy as early as possible.

Election dates by country

Each country is free to set the election date between June 6 and 9. In the Netherlands, elections will be held on June 6. The Czech Republic and Ireland will organize the vote on June 7. Voters residing in Malta, Slovakia, and Latvia will vote on June 8. Those living in Croatia, Germany, Denmark, France (except for some overseas departments, where the vote will be held on June 8 due to the time difference), Lithuania, or Belgium will vote on June 9.

Useful links:

How to vote: Explanations by voting country

European Elections 2024: Explanations (Easy-to-Read Method)

Inclusion Europe  

Proxy Voting:

Belgium

France