European Commission acts to defend voting rights of EU citizens

The European Commission has today issued guidance to EU-Member States which have rules in place leading to a loss of voting rights for citizens in national elections, simply because they have exercised their right to free movement in the EU. Five Member States (Denmark, Ireland, Cyprus, Malta and the United Kingdom) currently apply regimes which have that effect. Whilst under the existing EU Treaties, Member States are competent to determine who can benefit from the right to vote in national elections, disenfranchisement practices can negatively affect EU free movement rights. Disenfranchisement practises are also at odds with the founding premise of EU citizenship which is meant to give citizens additional rights, rather than depriving them of rights.

The guidance is inviting Member States to:
– Enable their nationals who make use of their right to free movement in the EU to retain their right to vote in national elections if they demonstrate a continuing interest in the political life of their country, including by applying to remain on the electoral roll;
– When allowing nationals resident in another Member State to apply to keep their vote, ensure that they can do so electronically;
– Inform citizens in a timely and appropriate way about the conditions and practical arrangements for retaining their right to vote in national elections.

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