Cabinet supports the draft law of the Ministry of Justice on the participation of voters abroad in city and municipality council elections 24.03.2020
On Tuesday, March 24, the Cabinet approved amendments by the Ministry of Justice to the Law on Elections of the Republic City Council and Municipality Council to allow voters abroad to vote in elections of the republic city council and municipality council by mail.
The purpose of the draft law is to promote the participation of Latvian citizens with the right to vote in municipal elections, to support civic and political participation of the diaspora and to involve as many diaspora representatives as possible in the affairs of local governments.
The draft law has been drafted on the basis of Article 12 (4) of the Transitional Provisions of the Diaspora Law, which stipulates that the Cabinet of Ministers shall prepare and submit to the Parliament the necessary draft laws establishing the procedure for the participation of the Latvian citizens with voting rights in the elections of the Parliament, the European Parliament and the municipality, in referendums and vote for legislative proposals by mail.
Currently, in accordance with the Law on the Elections of the Republic City Council and Municipality Council - local elections are held only in polling stations in the territory of Latvia, therefore, voters abroad cannot participate in local elections. Therefore, the draft law prepared by the Ministry of Justice provides that the voter will be able to submit their application for voting by mail in several ways:
- using the official electronic address;
- at the diplomatic or consular missions of the Republic of Latvia appearing in person or sending by mail;
- by sending by mail to the Central Election Commission.
The Central Election Commission will consider all applications it has received for voting by mail at least 30 days before the election day. In turn, no later than 20 days before the election day, the Central Election Commission will send the link to the voting materials to the election mail address of the voter. The voting materials will include ballot papers for all candidate lists and information on how to vote. The voting materials will also include the information on the serial number by which the voter is registered on the electoral roll, as well as an indication of the relevant city or county electoral commission to which the voting materials are to be sent. All voting materials that will be sent to the voter will be specified in the instructions of the Central Election Commission.
The voter will be obliged to print the voting materials himself / herself. The voter must place the ballot paper in an envelope, which must be enclosed with the certificate in another envelope, and send it to the electoral commission of the relevant republic city or municipality. Certificate is required to make sure that the voter has voted personally and thus has made his or her choice. The costs of printing the voting materials and sending the vote shall be borne by the voter. For a voter, the estimated cost of taking the necessary steps to participate in the elections of the republic city council and municipality council by postal voting (printing of voting materials, purchasing envelopes and mailing) could be EUR 5.
Votes received by mail will be counted by the city or municipality electoral commission, or by a specially constituted postal polling station commission.
If only one or two voters in a given municipality vote by mail, i.e. one or two envelopes are received by mail, to ensure the secrecy of the ballot, the republic city or municipality election commission shall select the polling station to which the received envelopes are transferred for counting.
If the applicant has missed the deadline for submitting the application or if there is no information in the electoral register that confirms that the person is entitled to vote for the relevant council, the Central Election Commission shall, by reasoned decision, refuse to send the voting materials.
The draft law is available on the website of the Cabinet of Ministers. The amendments have yet to be considered by the Parliament.
Pursuant to Section 5 of the Law on Elections of the Republic City Council and Municipality Council, the following individuals have the right to elect the city council in the Republic of Latvia:
1) a citizen of Latvia;
2) a citizen of the European Union other than a citizen of Latvia but who has been registered in the Population Register.
A person who has reached the age of 18 on the day of the elections, is registered in the Voters' Register and has been registered at his or her place of residence in the administrative territory of the relevant local government for at least 90 days prior to the day of the elections, or a person who owns real estate which is registered in the administrative territory of the relevant local government in accordance with the procedures specified by law has the right to vote.