Absentee voting law is still missing

Absentee voting law is still missing

With the fall of the Draghi government, the chamber’s scrutiny of bills was also effectively suspended to allow voting by “non-sedentary” people: that is, those who, e.g. for study or work reasons, he has his residence much further away and should therefore go to his polling station for hours (legally assigned in the municipality of residence and not in the municipality of residence).

Italian legislation provides for the possibility of remote voting only if you are staying abroad, even temporarily, while students and workers who live in Italy but in a different commune than their place of residence are obliged to return to the commune of their residence and to go logistical and economic effort, the further away the community is from the place of residence.

Those temporarily residing abroad or registered in the Register of Italians Residing Abroad (AIRE) can vote by post, that is, by sending their ballot papers by post. Postal voting from abroad is possible for political elections, referendums and also for the election of Italian representatives to the European Parliament. On the other hand, there are no similar mechanisms for those residing in Italy but living in a commune other than the commune of residence. It is easier to vote in political elections when you are a temporary or permanent resident of Austria than to do the same when you live in Milan but have a place of residence in Catanzaro.

The number of absentees, students and workers is not negligible. A report prepared a few months ago by a commission set up by Minister for Relations with Parliament Federico D’Incà estimates that around 1.85 million Italians live more than two hours’ drive from their seat. A total of 4.89 million people live somewhere other than where they live: about 10 percent of the electorate.

The phenomenon of the so-called “involuntary abstention” of people who do not have the means or the resources to return to vote in their commune of residence could therefore significantly affect the forthcoming political elections: for the reasons given, the specificity of the is also the Period in which the elections take place – university exams and degrees are often announced in the last weeks of September – and the fact that for these political elections on a single day, Sunday 25 September.

Italy is one of the few European countries that does not have a law guaranteeing the right to vote for those who study or work far from where they live.

As also emerges from a study by the Citizens’ Committee Iovotofuorisede and the association The Good Lobby, with the exception of Italy, Malta and Cyprus, all other countries of the European Union have, over the years, equipped themselves with tools to facilitate elections involving students and field workers as well as older people and disabled people. Postal voting is practiced in Austria, Germany, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Spain and Switzerland; in Belgium, France and the Netherlands it is possible to vote by proxy; in Denmark, Estonia, Norway, Portugal, Sweden there is early voting at a place other than the place of residence; in Estonia it is also possible to vote electronically.

Currently, five bills have been submitted to the Chamber’s Constitutional Committee to regulate the right to vote in a municipality other than that of residence. The oldest, but also the one worked on before the fall of the government, dates from March 2019 and has Marianna Madia, a member of the Democratic Party, as the first signatory.

The rather complex matter is governed by Article 48 of the Constitution, which stipulates that voting must be “personal and equal, free and secret”, and adherence to these principles has prevented the adoption of any reform for the time being. For example, when speaking of postal voting, one is speaking of the possibility that it is not truly free (e.g. one spouse could force the other to vote for a particular party). On the other hand, e-voting poses several problems of data confidentiality.

“There are a number of technical obstacles that need to be addressed,” explained Madia. “The Interior Ministry, while noting the existence of these difficulties, has always maintained an open attitude, with the will to overcome them. We were then asked to stop the discussion because Minister D’Incà had requested an overall study on abstention and we were therefore awaiting the results of the “White Paper” » as the study commissioned by D’Incà is called.

After the study was published, Madia explained that supporters of the bill were working to draft a unified text. “It was the Democratic Party that asked for classroom scheduling, which is scheduled for late July. We were at a good point ». But with the fall of the government, discussion of the bill was skipped. “In my proposal there were different technical modalities than those proposed in the ‘White Paper’, but the important point for us was the principle: to get those living outside their place of residence to vote. Also because we are not talking about small numbers and it is often about young people: we want to fight against abstention and bring young people closer to politics, but how can you do that by keeping all these people out of the election?”.

A few days ago the planning was skipped, Emma Bonino and Riccardo Magi from + Europa launched the #iovotofuorisede signature collection and put a question to the Home Secretary Lamorgese asking: “How does she plan to intervene to ensure that this happens in the September 25 elections temporarily residing outside the region of residence can exercise their right to vote at their place of residence”.

But barring an extraordinary legislative intervention by the Ministry of the Interior – hardly imaginable given the tedious legislative process carried out so far, and even more so for a resigning government – the September 25 elections could prevent almost 5 million Italians, to quote the constitution, “effective participation in the political, economic and social organization of the country”.