Saturday, May 27, 2023

Explainer: how France’s old-school voting system works

PARIS ( Associated Press) — Paper ballots in paper envelopes. No absentee voting, and no early voting either. French voters in Sunday’s presidential election are using an old-school system that has defied calls for greater flexibility or modernisation.

As France’s 48.8 million voters have been invited to choose between President Emmanuel Macron and his far-right challenger Marine Le Pen, here’s a look at how the French election works:

How do they cast ballots?

Voters make their choice in a booth, after the curtains are closed, place their ballot paper in an envelope which is then put in a transparent ballot box. They will need to show photo identification and sign a document next to their name to complete the process.

Machine-voting has been allowed on an experimental basis, but the purchase of new machines has been prohibited since 2008 due to security concerns. Of the 35,000 municipalities in France, only 60 cities still use them.

Last year, Macron’s centrist government attempted to pass an amendment to allow early machine voting to encourage electoral participation amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The Senate, led by a conservative majority, rejected the measure, arguing that it had been announced with too little notice and was not legally sound enough.

A nationwide effort to streamline electoral rolls, particularly to remove people who died or changed addresses, left some people unable to vote in the first round of the presidential election on April 10. The state statistics agency reported that about 3,100 voters who were accidentally dropped were reinstated in the voting list in time for the second round.

Are there other options?

Mail-in voting was banned in 1975 amid fears of possible fraud.

Those who cannot go to the election for various reasons can authorize someone else to vote.

To do so, a voter has to fill out a form ahead of time and bring it to the police station. Up to 7% of people voted by proxy in the last presidential election five years ago. French people living abroad vote in embassies or consulates.

Local authorities can arrange vans or buses to bring older people to polling stations, and prisons can set up polling stations inside their facilities.

How are ballots counted?

Volunteers count the ballots one by one by hand. Officials then use state-run software to record and report the results.

But legally, only paper matters. If a result is challenged, the ballots are counted manually.

For cities that use the machines, the results are recorded locally and then reported to the Ministry of the Interior, which oversees the elections. The ministry said it has not received any report of malpractices in voting machines in the first round of polling on April 10.

What about COVID-19?

Most of the pandemic restrictions have been lifted in the country. The number of cases is significantly lower than at the beginning of this year, but there are still more than 80,000 new confirmed infections every day.

Those who test positive for the virus can go to the polls. They are strongly advised to wear masks and follow other health guidelines.

Voters can wash their hands at polling stations, where hand sanitizer is also available. Equipment has to be cleaned frequently. Each polling station gives fresh air for at least 10 minutes every hour.

World Nation News Desk
World Nation News Desk
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