Czech municipal elections: How foreigners can register to vote
Municipal council elections are taking place in Czechia next Friday and Saturday and it’s not just Czechs who are eligible to vote but EU citizens too. But how exactly does one register? And is it possible to run in the elections as well? We took a closer look at how the process works.
Data from the Ministry of Interior shows that there were more than 200,000 EU citizens living in Czechia with permanent or temporary residency as of June 30, 2022. As long as they are 18 or over, they have the option to take part in Czechia’s upcoming municipal council elections, says Tomáš Jirovec, who leads the Interior Ministry’s Elections Department.
“The voting law also requires that they apply to be included in an addendum to the regular electoral register at least two days before the start of the elections, which means by Wednesday, September 21.”
Perhaps the easiest way to do this step is simply to go to one’s local district council and ask to be registered as a voter. However, there is also a way of doing this without leaving one’s home, says Mr Jirovec.
“You can also send the request by writing, or electronically via the state’s digital data box or at least with some sort of electronic signature, because the public administration needs some way to be able to prove that this is an authentic request. However, given that it’s just ahead of the elections, I would recommend going there physically, so that there aren’t delays.”
The good news is that EU residents only have to do this once to be able to vote in all future municipal council elections. Thereafter, the state will send the necessary voting papers directly to their address, as it does with Czech citizens. Even if the person moves to a different district, they are not required to ask for an addendum again, as their new address details are passed on to the local council.
For those unwilling to pass the bureaucratic hurdle of applying for the addendum registration there is hope, as Mr. Jirovec says that the ministry has prepared an amendment that would remove the compulsory addendum registration.
“The reform counts on foreigners being registered automatically into these lists. The proposed date from which this would take effect is January 1, 2026, which is the year of the next municipal council elections. So, if it passes, it shouldn’t be necessary to register when the next elections come round.”
Just like any Czech citizen, foreigners from the EU who have registered themselves should receive their ballots and the address of the polling place in their letterbox. Those who turn up to their local voting district without these papers can also request the necessary ballots on the spot. However, EU citizens who want to vote will need to identify themselves either with their permanent residency permit, or temporary residence certificate when they arrive at the polling station.
Voter turnout among EU residents in Czechia is traditionally very low, says Mr. Jirovec, numbering only a few thousand. However, those who want to become actively engaged can also exercise their right to either run as candidates in municipal elections themselves, or sit in their local electoral commission. For this it is necessary to either apply to one’s council, or be nominated by a political party.
Last but not least, EU citizens can also vote in Czechia’s elections into the European Parliament. However, here the rules are slightly different. They include the condition that they must be resident in the Czech Republic for at least 45 days prior to Election Day.
More details on how the registration process works can be found on the website of the Ministry of Interior.