Who can vote in the European elections?

Who can vote in the European elections?

By: nikolaj kristensen&
June 3 2024

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Who can vote in the European elections?

(Source: Reuters)

From June 6 to June 9, EU member states will hold elections to elect the 720 members of the European Parliament for the next five years. In a series of articles leading up to the election, Logically Facts will equip you with the information you need to steer clear of misinformation and misleading narratives about the election. In recent years, elections have been marred with misinformation about voting, among other things, on who can and cannot vote in elections. In this article, we answer the question - who can vote in the election?

Who can vote?

The matter of who can vote is pretty straightforward. Only EU citizens can vote in the election. That means you have to be a national of an EU member state to vote. Refugees and migrants from outside the EU can only vote if they have been naturalized to an EU member state. Different countries have different naturalization processes, but naturalization usually requires several years of residence in a country. 

Of course, you must also be of voting age to vote in the election. Member states set their own minimum voting age. In most of the EU bloc’s countries, the voting age is 18, with the exceptions of Austria, Belgium, Germany, Malta (16), and Greece (17).

eu vote tweetScreenshot of an X post from the European Parliament showing when member states will vote for EU Parliament representatives. (Source: X/Screenshot)

If you are an EU citizen and live in an EU member state other than your home country, you can choose to vote in either your home country or your country of residence. EU citizens living outside the EU can usually vote in the embassies or consulates of their home country.

In some countries, for example, Ireland, voters need to register to be able to vote. You can check what rules apply in your country on the EU's election website

Why it matters

In the leadup to last year’s Polish parliamentary election, false claims spread online that Ukrainian refugees in Poland would be able to vote in the election. Even before that, a significant amount of conspiracy had emerged that the election would be manipulated by "using” Ukrainian refugees to skew the vote. Since the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Poland has taken in a significant share of Ukrainians displaced from their war-torn homeland, recording more than 950,000 Ukrainian refugees by the end of last year. 

In a December 2023 report, Ukraine Crisis Media Center, a Ukrainian NGO devoted to supporting Ukraine’s statehood and promoting Ukraine abroad, said that “voter communication is well-suited for disinformation campaigns targeting Ukrainian refugees” and warned that as the European elections draw near “there may be efforts to exploit the situation by undermining the credibility of Ukrainian refugees for political gain.”

Jeanette Serritzlev, a military analyst who specializes in information warfare at The Royal Danish Defence College, told Logically Facts that she considers it likely that Russia has both the will and the ability to try to influence the European Parliament elections. “Just as Russia continuously tries to spread anti-Ukrainian messages, including corruption stories and stories that the sanctions are not working,” she said.

Valentyna Shapovalova, a Ukrainian-born Russian propaganda researcher at the University of Copenhagen, said Russian disinformation campaigns had already been spotted in several EU countries concerning the upcoming elections. “The purpose of the overarching, dominant ones seem to be: a) to create political division and increase polarization, especially on the Ukraine issue; and b) to promote pro-Russian politicians and undermine voices critical of the Kremlin,” she told Logically Facts.    

Voting rights of refugees

Similarly to the Ukrainian refugee claims, Ireland last year saw claims spread by far-right social media users that non-Irish citizens – asylum seekers, refugees, and immigrants – were able to vote in the country’s elections. The dissemination of such claims may serve to increase support for far-right parties, which could capitalize politically from immigration being one of the election’s dominant issues. 

Quite contrary to such claims, the lack of voting rights for refugees in particular has been problematized by human rights scholars and advocates for years, sometimes dubbed as a “voting rights gap.” 

In his book Voting Rights of Refugees, Ruvi Ziegler, an associate professor in international refugee law at the University of Reading, lays out the argument that refugees residing in a democratic community where people have voting rights should have the right to vote there. 

“The book argues that recognized refugees are a special category of non-citizen residents as they are unable to participate in elections of their state of origin, do not enjoy its diplomatic protection abroad, and are unable or unwilling, due to a well-founded fear of persecution, to return to it,” Ziegler told Logically Facts. 

“Refugees deserve to have a place in the world where their opinions are significant and their actions are effective. Their state of asylum is the only community in which there is any prospect of political participation on their part,” he said.

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