For anyone interested in the voting procedure for the European elections when you live abroad, read on. As an expat, returning ‘back home’ to vote in person in national elections is not always possible. Time and money being the main constrains. Voting in person for the upcoming EP elections in this sense, is no different. So, in a seemingly no fuss way, I will be sending my vote by post. Signed, sealed, delivered. Simple!
To verify that there would be no slip-ups however, I thought I would double-check the procedures. A look on the EP website gave no easy answer regarding dates I would need to register by etc (no surprises there). So, I thought I would call my friendly EP representation office in Athens.
I was happy they were genuinely polite even if they were unhelpful (anyone who has had any dealings with the Greek public services will understand why I was happy). I did wonder if they had had any calls recently, who uses the EP representation offices anyway? I can’t really understand why a whole team of staff is needed here, as well as in Brussels. Anyway, they told me to call the British embassy in Athens to check on the procedure for British citizens wishing to vote in EP elections.
Ok this is where I start to get a bit angry. Shouldn’t the EP representations make it their business to KNOW these kinds of things! Surely out of all the priorities that they have as an office this should be a busy time of year when they make it their priority to at least have some idea. Anyway, this is not a gripe directed at public servants so moving on. I called the British embassy, ‘it has nothing to do with us’ was the reply, ‘call or e mail the local authority you are registered to vote at’.
Ok, at this point I am starting to wonder if there have been ANY communications from central authorities, either EP or Government that EP elections are taking place soon. Some briefing must be floating around someone’s inbox outlining procedures like this. I thought I would ask a few follow-up questions since I was not sure if, or when, I would get a response from my local authority, plus it was a slow day at the office. ‘We have absolutely nothing to do with voting here at the British embassy’.
Good to know for future reference. Embassies know absolutely nothing about voting procedures, and why should they, its only the single most democratic event in the whole political calendar. She was able to direct me to www.aboutmyvote.co.uk website which I had access to, and to be fair, the e mail I sent to my local authority received a reply really quickly. Within one email exchange my registration form for the postal vote was sent to my postal address here.
I kept thinking - it should be easier than this. Intuitively, voting in European Parliament elections when I am a European citizen should mean I can add my name to an electoral register in the European country I reside in, and have a residence permit to be in. I am registered by the police as residing here and I am paying taxes here. I may accept that it does not make sense for me to vote in national elections when I don’t have citizenship, but surely, if there is any point in EU wide voting at all, it should be a little more streamlined. I, as an expat, should be entitled to chose where I will vote in European elections. In fact I should be able to vote for candidates of the European country I reside in but am not a citizen in. Before anyone still reading pounces on a long list of legislative pre-conditions or issues of sovereignty I am talking about it more generally (btw if there is anyone still reading, thanks).
I would be interested to know if any European expat who will be voting from abroad, has experienced the procedure any differently? Or if their local EP office or embassy responded differently?
For instance, in the UK if you are voting in EP elections but you are not a British citizen, there is a nice automated online system for registering to vote. Will any expats be voting in their embassies or know any other systems in play that are not post or proxy? Just hoping I might be pleasantly surprised that things are more advanced than they seem. I wish electronic voting would hurry up! It would make more sense. I have had quite a lot of my post go missing. My concern is that if I don’t get the registration form in time (not an unlikely possibility that there will be a strike) it will be too late to vote. The ballot paper has to arrive on election day but cannot be sent out until four working days before day of election - you do the maths.
Be aware that if you don’t register to vote by post soon it might be too late !