EXPLAINER: How France’s old-fashioned voting system works | World


PARIS (AP) — Paper ballots slipped into paper envelopes. No postal voting, nor early voting either. French voters of Sunday’s presidential election use an old-fashioned system that has defied calls for more flexibility or modernization.

As France’s 48.8 million voters are asked to choose between President Emmanuel Macron and his far-right rival Marine Le Pen, here’s a look at how the French election unfolded:


Voters make their choice in a voting booth, curtains closed, then deposit their ballot in an envelope which is then placed in a transparent ballot box. They must show photo ID and sign a document, next to their name, to complete the process.

Automatic voting was allowed on a trial basis, but the purchase of new machines has been frozen since 2008 due to security concerns. Only about sixty municipalities still use them, out of 35,000 municipalities in France.

Last year, Macron’s centrist government tried to push through an amendment to allow early machine voting to encourage voter turnout amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The Senate, led by a conservative majority, rejected the measure, arguing that it was announced on too short notice and was not legally sound enough.

A nationwide effort to streamline voter rolls, including removing people who have died or changed addresses, prevented some people from voting in the first round of the April 10 presidential election. The national statistics agency reported that around 3,100 voters were deleted in error. were re-registered on the electoral lists in time for the second round.

Postal voting was banned in 1975 amid fears of potential fraud.

People who cannot go to the polls for various reasons can authorize someone else to vote for them.

To do this, a voter must complete a form in advance and bring it to a police station. Up to 7% of people voted by proxy in the last presidential election five years ago. French people living abroad vote in embassies or consulates.

Local authorities can organize vans or buses to pick up elderly people from nursing homes to take them to polling stations, and prisons set up polling stations inside their facilities.


The volunteers count the ballots one by one, by hand. Officials then use state-run software to record and report the results.

But legally, only the paper counts. If a result is disputed, the paper ballots are recounted manually.

For cities using machines, the results are recorded locally and then reported to the Ministry of the Interior, which oversees the elections. The ministry said it had not received any reports of irregularities involving voting machines during the April 10 first-round vote.

Most pandemic restrictions have been lifted in the country. The number of cases is significantly lower than at the start of this year, but there are still more than 80,000 new confirmed infections every day.

People who test positive for the virus can go to the polls. They are strongly advised to wear a mask and follow the other health instructions.

Voters can wash their hands at polling stations, which also have hand sanitizer. Equipment should be cleaned frequently. Each polling station lets in fresh air for at least 10 minutes every hour.

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William D. Babcock

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