Drive-thru voting to be introduced for autumn regional and Senate elections

Photo: Vladimír Staněk / Czech Radio

With regional and Senate elections due at the start of October, politicians have agreed on a means of allowing the thousands of people likely to be in quarantine at the time to cast their ballot. The proposed amendment to the law, which is to be approved in a state of legislative emergency, will allow three alternative forms of voting.

The right to vote is a fundamental human right in the Czech legal order but, according to a special article introduced in 1995, people with a highly infectious disease, such as tuberculosis, lose that right, since enabling them to do so would present a public health hazard.

However the exception introduced into the Czech legal order did not envision a pandemic such as the present one and politicians have scrambled to find a solution that would enable the thousands of people likely to be in quarantine at the time of the regional and Senate elections to cast their ballot.

The Interior Ministry put forward several proposals including drive-thru voting, voting by post or by proxy. At a meeting on Wednesday, the leaders of the country’s parliamentary parties rejected the two latter suggestions and agreed on drive- thru voting, complemented by two other alternative means. Interior Minister Jan Hamáček explains:

Jan Hamáček,  photo: Michaela Danelová / Czech Radio

“We have agreed on three alternative means of voting for people who are in quarantine. We will enable drive-thru voting for those who can avail themselves of this means, we will set up special ballot boxes in institutions under lock-down and the third possibility is the so-called “mobile ballot box” in which case commissioners will visit people in their homes to enable them to cast their vote – while taking all the necessary precautions.”

According to Health Ministry data, at the present time there are around 3,500 people in quarantine in the Czech Republic. The number of people who would need to use an alternative means of voting at the beginning of October is hard to predict. However Interior Minister Hamáček says the system would be able to serve tens of thousands of people if needed. Deputy Interior Minister Petr Mlsna explains:

“There will be 78 drive-thru points around the country– one in each district. They will each be manned by 3 soldiers and one commissioner. Voting at drive-thru points will take place on Wednesday, i.e. two days ahead of the scheduled elections so that people who have already cast their ballot will be crossed off the regular lists. The second option will be ballot boxes in places that are under lock-down –such as old-age homes, and the third is the “mobile” ballot box. If you are in quarantine and cannot leave your home then call your regional office by 8pm on Thursday and ask for a special team to bring a ballot box to your home. This will not be the regular commissioners’ team which visits old or otherwise sick people, but the special drive-thru team in the given locality.”

With regional elections and elections to a third of the Senate due to be held on October 2-3, lawmakers will need to approve the proposed amendment in a state of legislative emergency. According to Deputy Prime Minister Jan Hamáček the government should approve it on August 17, the lower house will meet to debate it on August 19 and the Senate soon after.