Have you ever been unable to take part in elections due to circumstances beyond your control? Did you have to stay at work over both election days, and therefore could not exercise your right to vote? Do you live away from your permanent residence and would you have to cross half the country to vote? Or are you applying for an absentee voting? Do you live in a country that has no Czech embassy, or has one so far away that it would cost a small fortune to get there? Here at the Institute, we spend a lot of time thinking about how to improve the accessibility of elections to citizens.
Czech eligible voters live outside the Czech Republic
EU member states allow correspondence voting
of Czech voters used their absentee ballot for the 2018 presidential elections
Of the hundreds of thousands of Czechs living abroad, only a fraction of entitled voters takes part in elections (around 3 %). But even right here, in the Czech Republic, not all voters have the same ease of access to elections. One solution would be to introduce correspondence voting.
People in Australia have been casting absentee ballot votes since 1877. In the European Union, citizens may vote using postal services in 24 member states, including all of our neighbours. In Germany, this option has been available since 1957, and in Austria, correspondence votes substantially influenced the results of the latest presidential elections. In Estonia, voters even vote electronically, and correspondence voting itself is considered a precursor to online voting. Why Czechs still cannot send in their voting ballots by post?
To increase awareness about citizens’ long-distance voting options and support introduction of correspondence voting in the Czech Republic, in October 2017, we released a petition for the implementation of correspondence voting in the Czech Republic.
The long-term research project “Inclusive Voting” maps the situation of voters whose votes become wasted as it was impossible to cast votes. Our research framework also investigates the stance that the public and lawmakers have taken toward reforms in this area, mainly in introducing the option of correspondence and electronic voting.
Considering that the election turnout has been falling steadily in recent years, this is a topic that deserves attention. There is much talk of noticeable apathy and lack of political participation in the Czech Republic and elsewhere in Europe.
However, less attention has been paid to the objective barriers preventing citizens from participating in elections and referendums. In light of the growing population of Czech citizens living away from their registered places of residence, both within the Czech Republic and abroad, the absence of distance voting options could become a serious barrier to voting participation.
Abroad, voters may leave their vote at a Czech embassy or consulate, but in certain cases, that might be thousands of kilometers away. In such cases, the trip to the ballot places has enormous demands on voters’ time and finances.
Our research also deals with the potential impact of correspondence voting on election results and subsequent effect on individual political parties or the situation of other stakeholders.
In the first part of our research project, titled “Correspondence Voting in the Czech Republic”, we will identify deficiencies in awareness of the issue among Czech citizens: