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EP elections 2014: voting rights when living abroad

With the European elections just around the corner, citizens continue to turn to the EP with many different requests. Many are also concerned about their voting rights when living abroad and certain express their discontent at the complexity of different national voting regulations

The European Parliament launched the “Elections 2014” website providing summarized information on the electoral law in each Member State.

There are common EU rules which lay down that the elections must be by direct universal suffrage as well as free and confidential. MEPs must be elected on the basis of proportional representation.

However, the concrete voting procedures, including how to vote from abroad, are governed by national electoral laws and traditions and differ significantly between Member States.

Voting by non-nationals in their host country

As explained in the factsheet “The European Parliament: electoral procedures” (07/2013), EU citizens residing in a Member State of which they are not nationals have the right to vote in EP elections in their State of residence, under the same conditions as nationals. The concept of residence still varies from one State to another. Some countries require voters to have their domicile or usual residence on electoral territory, others to be ordinarily resident there or to be listed on the population register.

Voting by non-resident nationals in their country of origin

Almost all Member States allow the possibility to vote from abroad in EP elections. The European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) has compiled the info graphic “2014 European elections: national rules” comparing key data for each Member State.

Some Member States require voters to pre-register with their national electoral authorities to be eligible to vote from abroad by post or at an embassy/consulate. Several Member States confer the right to vote only to those citizens living abroad in another EU Member State. In addition, most Member States make special arrangements for diplomats and military personnel serving abroad. In some Member States, voting at embassies takes place prior to election day.

Some examples: in the United Kingdom the right to vote of citizens resident abroad is confined to certain categories (e.g. citizens who have lived abroad for less than 15 years). Belgium, Denmark, Greece, Italy and Portugal grant the right to vote only to those of their non-resident nationals who are living in another EU Member State. Austria, Finland, France, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden grant their nationals the right to vote irrespective of their country of residence. Germany grants this right to citizens who have lived in another country for less than 25 years. In Bulgaria, Ireland and Slovakia the right to vote is confined to EU citizens domiciled on their national territory.

For further details, please refer to the national authorities responsible for the elections in the Member States.

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