Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Voting in France: Paper ballots, cast in person; no machine

PARIS ( Associated Press) – French voters in Sunday’s presidential election will use the same system that has been used for generations: paper ballots that are cast in person and counted by hand. Despite periodic calls for greater flexibility or modernization, France does not use mail-in voting, early voting, or mass voting machines like the United States. President Emmanuel Macron is clearly at the fore, although an unprecedented proportion of people say they are unsure who they will vote for or whether they will vote for him.

paper ballot

Voter must be at least 18 years of age. About 48.7 million French are registered on the electoral rolls of the place where they live.

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.

Volunteers count the ballots one by one. Officials will then use state-run software to register and report results more efficiently.

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

proxy voting

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

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To do so, a voter has to fill out a form ahead of time and bring it to the police station. A person cannot be the representative of more than one voter residing in France – and potentially an additional person residing abroad.

Up to 7% of people voted by proxy in the last presidential election five years ago.

No mail-in voting, rare machine-voting

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

Machine-voting was allowed as an experiment in 2002, but the purchase of new machines has been prohibited since 2008 due to security concerns. Only a few dozen 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.

COVID-19 Remedy

Most of the COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted in the country. Although the number of cases is significantly lower than at the beginning of this year, infections have been rising again for several weeks, with more than 130,000 new confirmed cases being reported every day.

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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 the polling stations, which will also have hand sanitisers available. The equipment will be cleaned frequently. Every polling station will provide fresh air for at least 10 minutes every hour.

two-round system

Presidential elections in France are held in two rounds. Twelve candidates met the conditions for Sunday’s vote, including Macron and his main rival French nationalist leader Marine Le Pen.

In theory, one could win outright by securing more than 50% of the vote in the first round, but this has never happened in France.

In practice, the two top contenders qualify for a runoff, with the winner chosen on April 24.


Follow Associated Press’s coverage of the French election

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