The French Election Process

Here’s a little break from Coronamania: let’s talk about how the French conduct their elections. Just before the situation here got messy and the lockdown was put into place, Parisians were holding Round 1 of important municipal elections. Sunday was the first voting day in a system wherein you vote once, then come back next week and vote again for the top vote-getters from the first round. I joined my friend Marti in Paris as she went to vote and here’s what I saw.

Her local voting place was in the gorgeous ballroom of an elegant, former private residence now turned into a government building. Security included going through a metal detector and bag inspections and then we proceeded into the ballroom.

Note the “social distancing” lines for those in line

Step 1 – As a voter, you wait in line to show the registrars your national identification card and are given a small unsealed plain envelope.

Select the ballot/flyer for your chosen candidate

Step 2 – You then pass a table that has one-page ballot/flyers on it for each candidate (it’s actually the info about a main candidate, plus their slate of proposed appointees) and pick up the desired flyer (and maybe a few others to confuse any poll-watchers). These flyers were also mailed earlier to all voters so they could familiarize themselves with them at home.

Step 3 – You enter a private, curtained voting enclosure, fold up your ballot/flyer of choice, and seal it in the envelope. There’s a recycling bin for any other flyers you don’t use.

Step 4 – Exiting the enclosure, you approach a second table where you’re located in the voter rolls and you initial the roll, indicating you’ve voted. Then you drop your sealed envelope directly into the big plexiglass bin. Voila! You’ve voted.

Yes, the counting of votes is laborious, but the good things about this system include:

  • All elections are held on Sundays, so no issues about missing work to vote
  • You see your vote going physically into the bin – there’s no doubt about whether it was accepted
  • There are no opportunities for “hanging chads”, for filling-in the wrong oval, for confusing candidates on the ballot, etc.
  • The order of candidates on the ballot is meaningless here
  • A “physical backup” of the voting exists by definition

I’m not saying this is The Perfect System and would work for everyone, but it sure looked good to me.

The French are not as demonstrative about their national pride as, for example, the U.S. is and so there is no “I Voted” sticker available after you vote.

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