Report on out-of-country voting


National practices regarding the right to vote of citizens living abroad are far from uniform in Europe. However, developments in legislation, such as the judgment delivered in 2011 by the European Court of Human Rights in a case concerning Greece, which is not yet final, point to a favourable trend in out-of-country voting, in national elections, at least as regards citizens who have maintained ties with their country of origin.   

The Council for Democratic Elections decided to consider the issue of voting rights of citizens living abroad. This question is indeed valid in Europe, especially after the dissolution of the USSR and Yugoslavia.

This report was prepared on the basis of a comparative study of the situation in the Member States of the Venice Commission. It is dedicated primarily to active suffrage (not eligibility).

We must, first, know whether, in principle, the right to vote is restricted to residents. This is the case only in a minority of states concerned.

Among the main issues is the question of who has the right to vote, whether it’s sufficient to have resided in the country at one point of time or whether lack of long-term residence should result in the loss of that right.

For which elections expatriate citizens have the right to vote in general should also be determined; this is more often the case for national elections than for elections at a lower level. Then one has to establish the voting rules (the consulate, or to obtain more participation, by mail, by proxy, internet).
The report concludes that the right to vote should in principle be granted to citizens abroad.

Text of the report - Doc. CDL-AD(2011)022