EXPLAINS: How France’s old voting system works

PARIS (AP) – Paper ballot papers stored in paper envelopes. No absentee ballot, nor any early ballot. French voters at Sunday’s presidential election uses an old-fashioned system that has defied calls for more flexibility or modernization.

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

HOW DO THEY VOTE?

Voters make their choice in a box, with the curtains closed, and then put their ballot paper 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.

Machine tuning has been allowed on a trial basis, but purchases of new machines have been frozen since 2008 due to safety concerns. Only about 60 cities still use them, out of 35,000 municipalities in France.

Last year, Macron’s central government tried to pass an amendment allowing early voting by machine to encourage turnout in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Senate, led by a Conservative majority, rejected the measure, arguing that it was announced with too little notice and was not legally sound enough.

A nationwide effort to streamline voter lists, particularly to remove people who had died or changed address, led to some people not being able to vote in the April 10 first-round presidential election. The State Bureau of Statistics reported that about 3,100 voters who were removed by mistake were reinstated on the polls in time for the second round of elections.

ARE THERE OTHER OPTIONS?

Voting on letters was banned in 1975 for fear of potential fraud.

People who for various reasons can not go to the polls can give another permission to vote for them.

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

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

HOW ARE THE VOTES VOTED?

Volunteers count the ballots one by one in hand. Officials then use state-run software to record and report results.

But legally, only the paper counts. If a result is challenged, the paper votes are retold manually.

For cities using machines, the results are recorded locally and then reported to the Home Office, which oversees elections. The ministry said it did not receive any reports of irregularities involving voting machines in the first-round vote on April 10.

WHAT ABOUT COVID-19?

Most pandemic restrictions have been lifted in the country. The number of cases is significantly lower than earlier this year, but there are still more than 80,000 newly 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 other health guidelines.

Voters can wash their hands at polling stations, which also have rubbing alcohol available. The equipment must be cleaned frequently. Each polling station closes in on fresh air for at least 10 minutes every hour.

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Follow the AP’s coverage of the French election at https://apnews.com/hub/french-election-2022

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