July 7 polling stations expand, include Indianapolis

Visitors to this summer’s Latvian Song and Dance Festival in Indianapolis now have more thing they can do: vote on the national referendum concerning changes to Latvia’s national security laws.

The Central Election Commission in Rīga announced May 24 that 33 polling stations—including one in Indianapolis, Ind.—have been added for the July 7 referendum. Latvian citizens who live or will be abroad on that date now will be able to cast ballots at one of a total of 48 polling stations. The other 15 stations are those announced last week where citizens may apply for absentee ballots.

Polling stations will be open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. local time. To vote, citizens must have a valid Latvian passport.

The sites for polling stations were recommended by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The referendum will ask voters if they favor rescinding amendments made to the National Security Law and the State Law on Security Institutions. Both laws were amended by emergency decree in January by the Cabinet of Ministers while the Saeima was in recess. The Saeima subsequently approved the amendments, but then President Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga vetoed the changes. She and other critics cited concerns about how the amendments could allow politicians access to sensitive information and threaten the country’s national security.

However, the parliament on March 1 overrode the president’s veto, so the president in a rare move invoked her constitutional right to suspend implementation of the amended laws. That forced a call for a national referendum, which now must go ahead despite the Saeima’s about-face in late March, when it rescinded the changes it had approved.

Critics of the the parliament and of the coalition government headed by Prime Minister Aigars Kalvītis have suggested approval of the referendum would be a vote of no confidence in the politicians.

Absentee ballots

Citizens who live or will be abroad on the day of the referendum and who wish to vote by mail must apply from June 1-16 for an absentee ballot. The request should include the voter’s name, personal identification number (personas kods) and address where the absentee ballot should be sent. The voter also must submit their Latvian passport.

After June 16, the passport will be returned along with absentee ballot materials.

Absentee ballot requests may be sent to one of 15 diplomatic representatives:

  • Australia (Adelaide): Honorary Consulate of Latvia, 648 South Road, Glandore 5037, South Australia, Australia.
  • Australia (Melbourne): Honorary Consulate of Latvia, 2 Mackennel Street, East Ivanhoe VIC 3079, Australia.
  • Belgium: Embassy of Latvia, 158 av. Molière, 1050 Brussels, Belgium.
  • Brazil: Honorary Consulate of Latvia, Rua Jacques Felix 586, Ap.12, 04509-002 San Paulo, Brazil.
  • Canada: Embassy of Latvia, 350 Sparks St., Suite 1200, Ottawa, Ontario, K1R 7S8, Canada.
  • Denmark: Embassy of Latvia, 17 Rosbaeksvej, 2100 Copenhagen, Denmark.
  • France: Embassy of Latvia, 6 Villa Said, 75116 Paris, France.
  • Georgia: Embassy of Latvia, Rezo Tabukashvili ielā 17, 380008, Tbilisi, Georgia.
  • Germany: Embassy of Latvia, Reinerzstr. 40-41, 14193 Berlin, Germany.
  • Ireland: Embassy of Latvia, 92 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland.
  • Norway: Embassy of Latvia, Bygdoy Allé 76, Post Box 3163 Elisenberg, 0208 Oslo, Norway.
  • Russia: Embassy of Latvia, ul. Chapligina 3, 105062 Moscow, Russia.
  • Sweden: Embassy of Latvia, Odengatan 5, Box 19167, 104 32 Stockholm, Sweden.
  • United Kingdom: Embassy of Latvia, 45 Nottingham Place, London W1U 5LY, United Kingdom.
  • United States: Embassy of Latvia, 2306 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20008, United States.

Voting in person

In addition to the 15 embassies and consulates above, which also will be open July 7 for voting, the Central Election Commission has announced polling stations will be established in San Miguel, Argentina; Vienna, Austria; Baku, Azerbaidjan; Minsk and Vitebsk, Belarus; Toronto, Canada; Beijing, China; Prague, Czech Republic; Tallinn, Estonia; Helsinki, Finland; Bonn, Germany; Athens, Greece; Tel Aviv, Israel; Rome, Italy; Tokyo, Japan; Astana, Kazakhstan; Vilnius, Lithuania; The Hague, Netherlands; Warsaw, Poland; Lisbon, Portugal; Kaliningrad, Pskov and St. Petersburg, Russia; Madrid, Spain; Geneva, Switzerland; Ankara, Turkey; Kiev, Ukraine; Bradford and the Latvian rest home Straumēni at Catthorpe in the United Kingdom; Indianapolis and New York in the United States; Tashkent, Uzbekistan, and Caracas, Venezuela.

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

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