Number of eligible voters abroad tops 50,000; most in U.S., U.K., Germany

From Afghanistan to Vietnam, more than 50,000 people outside Latvia will be eligible to vote in the Sept. 17 parliamentary election, according to data compiled by the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs (Pilsonības un migrācijas lietu pārvalde, or PMLP) in Rīga.

Polling stations will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. local time. A total of 77 polling stations will operate outside Latvia in 39 different countries—but neither Afghanistan nor Vietnam are on the list.

The first polling stations to open will be in the eastern Australian cities of Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney, followed by Adelaide. Next will be the polling station in the Latvian Embassy in Tokyo, Japan, and then the Latvian community center Perth, Australia.

A total of 4,331 Latvian citizens are eligible to vote in Australia, according to PMLP data. In Japan, there are 16 eligible voters.

In all, 50,616 citizens abroad are eligible to vote Sept. 17. That’s about 3.3 percent of all 1.54 million eligible voters. The top three countries in terms of eligible voters are the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany, according to the PMLP data.

By the time it is early afternoon in eastern Australia, polling stations will just be opening Latvia, soon to be followed by polling stations in other parts of Europe. Some of the largest populations of eligible voters are found in Europe—for example, 9,465 in the United Kingdom; 5,176 in Germany; 3,708 in Ireland; 1,556 in Sweden, and 1,333 in Estonia. Seven polling stations will be open in the U.K., including one each in Northern Ireland and, for the first time, in Scotland. Five will be open in Germany and two each in Ireland and Sweden.

The last to start voting will be Latvian citizens in North and South America. According to the PMLP data, about a fifth of all eligible voters outside of Latvia—a total of 10,621—are found in the United States. Canada accounts for 3,761 eligible voters. Fifteen polling stations will be open in the U.S. and three will operate in Canada.

In South America, Brazil has 231 eligible voters, followed by Argentina with 155 and Venezuela with 123. However, only one polling station—the Honorary Consulate-General in Sao Paulo, Brazil—will operate in all of South America.

If past elections are an indication, only a fraction of eligible voters abroad will actually cast ballots. The question is whether activity will top that of last year’s Saeima election, when voters abroad turned out in numbers not seen for 15 years.

The last ballots cast by Latvian citizens on Sept. 17 could be in the western U.S. cities of Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

A full list of polling station locations outside of Latvia is available as a PDF file on the website of the Central Election Commission in Rīga,

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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