Advance voting in Estonian foreign missions starts on Saturday

A ballot box (picture is illustrative).
A ballot box (picture is illustrative). Source: ERR

Advance overseas voting for the Estonian parliamentary election in March begins on Saturday, 16 February, at Estonian foreign representations. The first of these is at Astana, Kazakhstan, where voting opens at 06.00 EET. According to the Estonian electoral portal, Estonian citizens permanently residing, or temporarily staying, abroad have the right to vote in that state's Estonian representation(s).

''We are ready, we have received all the necessary materials from the ministry," Kalvi Noormägi, Estonian Consul in Astana, told ERR on Friday.

The numbers likely to turn up to vote are small, however. According to Mr Noormägi, there are barely 10 people eligible to vote in the Estonian elections in the whole of Kazakhstan and that, added to the huge distances involved, and the fact that Estonians can vote electronically wherever they are, makes it likely noone will physically turn up to the embassy in Astana.

That said, Estonian citizens in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan can also vote at the Estonian embassy in the Kazakh capital.

Over 40 other overseas representations opening their doors to Estonian voters on Saturday include those at Washington DC, Madrid, Spain, Cairo, Egypt, Vienna, Austria, Bucharest, Romania, The Hague, Holland, Prague, the Czech Republic, Dublin, Ireland, Lisbon, Portugal, Warsaw, Poland, Stockholm, Sweden, London, England, Kiev, Ukraine, Minsk, Belarus, Moscow and the Toronto Estonian House. More are reportedly to be added on Sunday.

According to Estonian electoral law, the last day that advance voting at foreign representations can take place is 10-15 days before election day, on 3 March. This time, the final day for voting at foreign representations is 20 February, it is reported.

Since 2015, Estonian voters overseas have received electoral voting cards electronically, if they have registered their email address with the portal.

Permanent residents of a foreign state must have one of the 12 electoral districts in Estonia assigned to him or her, on the basis either of their former residence, or the place of residence of their antecedents, and must make the decision in advance whether to vote by mail, at a foreign mission or electronically.

In the case of foreign mission voting, voters are presented with ballot papers, two envelopes and the candidate list for that district. The completed ballot paper is inserted into an unmarked inner envelope, which in turn is sealed and placed into the outer envelope and sealed, marked with the name and ID code of the voter and their electoral district.

In the case of Estonians eligible to vote who are in a foreign state temporarily, the above details, and the voter's residence as per the population register, are marked on the outer envelope 30 days before election day.

These sealed ballot papers are then forwarded to the relevant electoral committees for counting.

Advance voting in Estonia itself begins on 21 February, as does electronic voting. The advance voting includes those voting in another district from their residence (the ballot paper is sent to their ''home'' district in this case).

Another option is voting at sea, which can be carried out on board a ship flying the Estonian national flag, by arrangement with the captain, if the ship is located in international waters or waters of a foreign state during the advance polling days and the election day, according to the electoral office website.

Only Estonian citizens can vote in the general election. EU citizens can vote in May's European Parliament election, and these plus all those from third countries or ''stateless persons'' who have long-term or permanent residency, can vote in the local elections. General election day itself is on 3 March.

Editor: Andrew Whyte

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