Friday

18th Aug 2017

Focus

Thousands able to vote twice in EU elections

  • Around 8 million EU citizens live in a member state other than their own (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

The Swedish election board in Solna should have received a complete data file of Swedish citizens voting in Denmark by 28 April the latest.

It did not arrive.

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"We must have access to this data 30 days before the day of election to be able to make up our register of electors in time," Hanns Lejsater, an official at the election authority, told Swedish paper Goteborgs-Posten.

Data technician Lars Siljedahl says the authority received some data from Denmark but the last batch only arrived on 15 May – too late.

Nicoline Miller, chief election consultant at the Danish interior ministry, last week said Copenhagen would send data to other member states informing them of which of their nationals were registered for voting in Denmark.

She said the information would be sent "any day soon". It was unclear whether this would be too late.

But the Danes are not the only sinners.

The Swedish election board is missing data about possible double voters from 10 EU countries, mostly the newest members of the EU but also Denmark and the UK.

"In the UK they don't have a central election system, and we can't use the manually picked data we get from them in any way," said technician Lars Siljedahl.

He added that only a third of the data received from other countries is machine readable – that with a correct reference to voters' Swedish ID codes.

Sweden has sent data about some 49,000 cross border EU-citizens to other member states – after the Swedish electoral registers were settled.

"As the countries have different election rules and deadlines our data might also have come too late. This is difficult to administer and we are not really happy with the way this is handled," Siljedahl said.

What then happens to citizens who vote in two member states?

"I can only say that when you applied to be able to vote in Denmark you took an oath only to vote in Denmark," said the Danish interior ministry's Miller in an email.

"In the application you signed it said the sanction for fraud is a fine or imprisonment for four months."

Hanns Lejsäter at the Swedish election board says: "Nothing will really happen. It is forbidden to vote more than once, but not all breaches of law can be sanctioned. In order to do that we would need some kind of at central election board for the whole of EU."

The issue of double voting in the EU election has also been raised in other EU countries.

Dutch paper Algemeen Dagblad recently ran a story on how some 157,000 voters received election cards both from their local authorities in the Netherlands and from their EU countries of origin.

"It's a strange situation that someone can vote twice although it is not allowed. This can be sanctioned with jail or a fine of €4000," Dutch interior minister Ronald Pasterek told NOS TV.

"I've tried to raise this issue with EU colleagues, but they were not interested. Now I will raise the issue again. But it is difficult to disclose who has voted in two countries without tampering with the secrecy of voting," he added.

According to estimates by the European Commission about 8 million EU citizens live in a member state other than their own.

The right to vote in local and EP elections in other member states was introduced in 1993.

It is unknown how many European voters have received more than one voting card.

Markus Bonekamp, head of the European Parliament's information office in Stockholm, says he has not heard of double voters before, but does not believe they will pose a big problem.

"The major problem has been to get people to vote in the first place, not people voting twice," he says.

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