Voter rolls are getting longer – at home and abroad. A record number of applications for certificates allowing people to vote anywhere have already been submitted in many cities. Changing the voting place in Poland can only be done until next Thursday, and abroad until Tuesday.
Maura is an art and culture student at Maastricht University. This will be her first election in her life. – I live in Belgium, I study in the Netherlands, I vote in Germany – says Maura Magowska. Voting abroad is often a huge challenge. Sometimes you have to travel hundreds of kilometers to the electoral commission. Maura, like the 15 people she goes with to vote, are luckier. – The whole Polish team is going to Aachen, Germany. It’s about 40 kilometers from us, because there is no direct polling station here in Maastricht, unfortunately – adds Maura.
The choice of this committee is not accidental. It’s not just about the distance from where you live. The place Maura and her friends decided to go to was the closest and had the fewest registered people. – We don’t want to stand in lines for five hours – adds Maura.
Foreign commissions – will they manage to count the votes?
Nearly 2,000 people are already signed up for the most crowded committees. This, in turn, raises doubts whether the commission members will be able to count the votes at such points. They only have 24 hours to do so. During this time, they must count the cards, prepare protocols and send the results to Warsaw. If they do not manage to count all the cards within 24 hours, the votes are considered null and void.
Committee members around the world are warning that due to new guidelines on counting ballots and the need to count referendum votes, they may not be able to complete the 24-hour deadline required by the code. – We, the committee, will not make a problem of the referendum. We collectively refuse, says Maura. – There is still time for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to appoint additional electoral commissions – says Professor Adam Bodnar, former ombudsman and candidate for the Senate on behalf of the Civic Coalition.
Adam Bodnar points out that the Electoral Code obliges foreign commissions to finish counting votes within 24 hours, but only in the case of parliamentary elections. Under the law, ballots from the referendum may be counted later because – as he argues – it is regulated by a different act. – 420,000 citizens of the Republic of Poland registered for the parliamentary elections (to vote abroad – editor’s note). This is an absolute record. Let me remind you that in the previous parliamentary elections, in 2019, there were approximately 350,000 citizens. This shows how important these elections are for Poles, argues Bodnar.
How to change the voting location?
During the previous elections to the Sejm and Senate, Poles could vote in 320 foreign committees. Most operated in Great Britain, the United States and Germany. This year there are more commissions – 410 around the world.
Those who would like to change their voting location abroad can only do so until Tuesday. In turn, those who will vote in the country but do not yet know where exactly they will vote should collect appropriate certificates. – As a rule, it can be done electronically. Well, these are the times. Traditionally, if someone just wants to come to the office, says Dariusz Nowak, spokesman for the Krakow City Hall. – Just fill out a one-page application and the client receives such a certificate immediately. Such a certificate authorizes a person to take part in voting in any electoral commission. Both in the country and abroad – explains Grzegorz Szatiło, director of the Civil Affairs Department of the City of Łódź Office.
Everyone can check whether and where they are registered in the voter roll in the Central Register of Voters – via the gov.pl website or the mObywatel application. We can also make changes there – until next Thursday, October 12.
Main photo source: Fakty TVN