On Tuesday, 16 June, Latvian Saeima conceptually supported amendments to the Law on Elections of the Republic City Council and Municipality Council, which provide for allowing voters to participate in municipal elections by mail, as reported by Saeima’s press-service.
The legislative draft was developed to promote the participation of Latvian citizens with voting rights in municipal elections, support the diaspora in civil and political developments to help them maintain ties with Latvia and their Latvian identity, the annotation mentions.
Voting by mail was proposed because currently voters who are abroad are unable to participate in municipal elections in Latvia, as participation is required in person.
It is expected that voters abroad will have to apply for voting by mail in advance. This can be done using www.latvija.lv, the official website of the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs, or in person at any Latvian embassy. It is also planned to allow voters to apply for voting by mail using their official e-mail address or by sending an application to the Central Election Commission (CVK). In their application, voters will have to list their e-mail address to which a hyperlink will be sent where voters will be able to access voting materials.
Amendments allow voters to apply for voting by mail 70 days prior to Election Day and no later than 42 days prior to election day.
It is planned that after receiving an application CVK will check if the applicant has the right to elect a specific council.
Voters will have to print out ballots and fill in the required spots. Voters will then be required to put the ballot in an envelope and put that into a different – registration – envelope, which the voter will have to send to the election commission of a specific city or county municipal administration.
Voting by mail will require additional funding of EUR 13 000, which CVK plans to allocate from 2021 budget funds. Interior Affairs Ministry will allocate the remaining EUR 60 400 from this year’s budget finances, as noted in the annotation of amendments.
Information from Latvian Foreign Affairs Ministry shows that there are more than 370 000 Latvian citizens currently living outside of Latvia. Most of them left Latvia in the past ten years.
Amendments will have to be approved by the Saeima in the second and third readings.