EU Electoral Law: change is afoot as Council adopts amendments to 1976 Act

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The Council has adopted new rules in relation to European Parliament elections, following consent from the Parliament in July after over two years of negotiations. The new measures aim to enhance participation in the elections, increase transparency in the process and prevent irregular voting.

The rules, which amend the 1976 Electoral Act, will make several changes to the electoral process, including methods of voting, ballot displays and rights to vote when residing in a third country.

The amendments will permit, subject to strict conditions, different voting methods such as internet voting. Furthermore, Member States will be encouraged to allow their citizens residing in a third country to vote in European Parliament elections; however, this will be on voluntary basis.

Under the new rules, Member States will need to impose strict penalties for EU citizens for “double voting”: attempting to vote in more than one Member State.

Member States will be obliged to assign contact authorities for the purpose of exchanging data on any citizens seeking to vote, or standing to be elected, in Member States of which they are not nationals.

The rules will allow logos and names of the relevant European political party to be displayed on ballot paper, should the Member State in question permit this.

As part of the new rules, an obligatory threshold of 2% to 5% will be set for constituencies with more than 35 seats. This provision will need to be implemented by Germany and Spain, who do not already have a mandatory threshold, in time for the next elections in 2024.

These provisions are modest in comparison to what was proposed, with no mention of a new Spitzenkandidat system or transnational lists. This has been criticised by some, with Member States’ fear of losing seats being cited as the reason more extensive reforms were not put forward.

However, Danuta Hübner, MEP, Chair of Constitutional Affairs Committee said, “The reform of the European electoral law is a big success and an achievement for the European Parliament. It will make the elections more accessible to millions of citizens and make the way they are prepared and run more transparent. In addition, measures against double voting and a minimum deadline for establishing electoral lists have been introduced. These measures will reinforce transparency and citizens’ trust in the elections.”

Member States will need to approve these measures, in line with the constitutional requirements, before the rules will come into force.

 

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