Parliament backs a modernised EU electoral law

This article is brought to you in association with the European Parliament.

The European Parliament endorsed new measures to modernise the European electoral law last Wednesday.

The purpose of the updated electoral law is to boost EU citizens’ participation in the European elections and enhance the European character of the procedure. The new measures were endorsed by 397 votes to 207 against, with 62 abstentions.

Among the new provisions, Parliament approved a proposal to introduce a mandatory threshold for constituencies with more than 35 seats. This threshold must not go below 2% and not exceed 5% of the votes cast. The new rule will also apply to single-constituency member states with more than 35 seats.

Of the EU countries with more than 35 seats, all except Spain and Germany have a statutory electoral threshold for the EU elections. These two countries will now have to comply with the new obligation and introduce a threshold in time for the European elections in 2024, at the latest.

Quotes

Parliament’s co-rapporteur Danuta Maria Hübner (EPP, PL) said: “The reform of the European electoral law is a big success and an achievement for the European Parliament. It will make the elections more accessible to millions of citizens and make the way they are prepared and run more transparent. In addition, measures against double voting and a minimum deadline for establishing electoral lists have been introduced. These measures will reinforce transparency and citizens’ trust in the elections.”

Parliament’s co-rapporteur Jo Leinen (S&D, DE) said: “The new law will provide citizens with more options to take part in the European elections, not only by introducing the possibility of postal and electronic voting, but also by encouraging Member States to allow their citizens living in non-EU countries to vote. Finally, with the new rules, citizens will be more aware of the link between national parties and candidates running in the elections and their affiliation to a European political party. This is an important provision that raises awareness of the European nature of the election.”

Penalties to prevent double voting

Other elements in the new electoral law include a requirement for EU countries to introduce and enforce effective and dissuasive penalties to prevent double voting (in the event that an EU citizen votes twice in more than one country). Member states shall also designate a contact authority responsible for exchanging information on EU citizens who want to vote or be a political candidate in a country of which they are not nationals. This data exchange must start at least six weeks before the EU elections.

EU countries may also allow for the name and logo of European political parties to be displayed on national ballot papers and provide for the possibility of advance, postal, electronic and internet voting, as long as certain criteria, such as protection of personal data and secrecy of the vote, are respected.

In accordance with their national laws, EU countries are also free to allow their citizens living in non-EU countries to vote in the EU elections, as well as to set a deadline for the submission of political candidates. This deadline must be at least three weeks before the date of the elections, according to the text.

Next steps

Once the provisions have been adopted by plenary, they will also have to be approved by all EU countries, in line with their respective constitutional requirements, before they can enter into force

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