On Thursday, 17 December, the Saeima adopted in the final reading amendments to the Law on Elections of the Republic City Council and Municipality Council, allowing voters abroad to participate in municipal elections by post.
According to the explanatory note to the amendments, the changes aim to promote the participation of eligible voters in municipal elections, to support the civic and political participation of the diaspora, and to engage as many members of the diaspora as possible in municipal processes, thus maintaining their ties with Latvia and the Latvian identity.
Voting by post was proposed in view of the fact that until now, voters abroad could not participate in municipal elections as voting was only organised in person and in the territory of Latvia.
To vote by post, voters abroad will have to apply prior to the elections. Applications will be accepted on-line via the public administration services portal www.latvija.lv, the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs website, or in person in Latvian embassies and representative offices. Alternatively, applications may be submitted to the Central Election Commission (CEC) by using the official electronic address, or sending the application by post. The application shall indicate the voter’s e-mail address, to which a website address, containing voting materials, will be sent.
The amendments stipulate that voters may submit their applications to vote by post 70 days before to the day of elections, but no later than 42 days prior to the day of elections.
Upon receiving an application to vote by post, the CEC will verify whether the applicant is eligible to vote in the respective council elections, and then register the applicant in the Voters’ Register, as well as send a link, containing voting materials, to the e-mail address indicated by the applicant.
The voter is required to print out the voting materials, select the relevant ballot paper, and make an appropriate mark. The ballot paper is than placed in an envelope, the envelope is sealed, and placed in a separate registration envelope, which the voter sends to the election commission of the relevant city council or municipal council. There, the envelopes are to be registered and stored unopened until the counting of votes commences.
According to the data available to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, over 370 thousand Latvian nationals reside abroad permanently, and most of them left their homeland during the last 10 years.
Saeima Press Service