On April 24, only 72% of voters voted in the second round. This was a strong abstention, but it did not reach the heights of 1969. It is a clear sign of the democratic crisis France has been facing for many years. The specter of another record hovers just days before the June 12th and 19 legislative elections. An Ipsos Sopra Steria survey of "Le Monde" found that only half of French citizens are likely to vote next Sunday (between 45% and 49%). These elections were marked by historic abstention five years ago. Only 48.7% had cast a ballot in round one, while 42.6% had. in the second round.
Certain developments on the technical level could help increase participation if there is a need to restore the trust of citizens in politicians and leaders in order to combat abstention over the long-term.
A parliamentary report was published in December 2021. It found that approximately 6% of French voters are not on the electoral rolls. 15% of those who are registered are "badly" registered - they are registered at an address other that their primary residence. Online voter registration has made it easier in recent years. The problem is still there, due to ignorance, negligence, or misunderstanding.
Professors of political science Celine Brannier and Jean-Yves Dormagen noted that France is one of few Western democracies to continue to impose administrative procedures on citizens before exercising the right to vote. Online registration for the June 12th and 19 legislative elections closed May 4, (May 6 for those who register at the town hall, or by mail). Canadian voters have the option to register online in advance or on election day at a station. However, they must prove their identity as well as their place of residence.
Australia's voters elect their representatives using a unique process: preferential voting. RFI explains that voters don't vote for any candidate or party, but instead for all candidates and in their order of preference. If no one achieves an absolute majority in the counting, the voter who received the lowest number votes is eliminated. His ballots are then transferred to the other candidates, according to the second choice made by the voters. This process continues until a candidate or party reaches 50%, thanks to vote transfers.
If the alliances between parties are not lost, the process could be used to address disenchantment created by the need to have the "useful voter", which was arose for some voters from the first round French presidential election. This would allow each side to express their opinions rather than being forced to choose one.
Voters in France who don't want to vote for one of the two candidates have the option to vote blank. This option is not included in the calculation of the final results. Blank votes are counted, made public and not considered votes cast. Many voters don't see the point and prefer to abstain.
However, Spain and the Netherlands also include the blank vote in European results. This is crucial in determining whether a party has reached the electoral threshold. However, it should be noted that the blank vote in these countries is not considered for the allocation of seats in parliaments during legislative election.
The results of the French presidential election would have been 6.5% for the white vote, 54.7% to Macron (instead 58.5%) and 38.8% to Marine Le Pen (instead 41.5%).
What is the cure for youth abstention? Socialist Anne Hidalgo proposed the opening of the right of vote at 16 as part of her program for the presidential elections. This measure is already in Austria since 2007, and applies to all elections.
It was intended to increase interest in politics among young people. However, the results have varied depending on the year. In 2008, 88% of first-time voters went to the polls in the first legislative elections following the reform. Five years later, the number dropped to 63% in 2013, before rising to 90% in 2017.
2018 also saw Malta lower the age of majority from 16 to 16 for all elections.
Candidates for the Elysee keep making the same promise: to elect deputies through proportional representation. This promise was never kept, and France is an exception to the rule in the European Union.
Most European countries use at most a proportional dosage. Some countries opt for a mixed system, such as Germany, while others choose a proportional system, with corrective mechanisms for greater political stability. In Greece, for instance, the party winning the election wins a bonus of 50 out of 300 deputies.
According to the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, postal voting is allowed in thirteen countries on the Old Continent. This includes seven for all voters. The system was established in 1957 in Germany. It continues to be popular with voters. Bavaria's March 2020 health crisis prompted authorities to make voting by postal ballots for the second round municipal elections. Participation was 58.5% (3.5 percentage points higher than 2014).
According to the Washington Post, the United States' November 2020 presidential election saw a record turnout, which was the highest in a century. Massive mobilization was due to the promotion and use of postal voting. This device also sparked a fierce battle during the campaign. Some 65 million Americans voted via post (i.e. 42% of voters in 2016 compared to 24 million in 2016.
While it has been discussed in recent elections, postal voting is still a sensitive topic in France. Some constitutionalists fear that postal voting could lead to fraud, which led to the abolishment of the French system in 1975.
This is a radical solution. The participation rate in Belgium is almost 90% for each election. The secret: In 1893, the Constitution made voting mandatory. However, it was subject to a penalty that has not been used for many years. Although it technically guarantees strong participation in elections, this does not solve the problem of disinterest or mistrust.
Digital voting is undoubtedly one of the most controversial options, especially due to the fear of fraud. Only Estonia has made this a universal principle in the world. Gilles Toulemonde, a public law lecturer, pointed out that the mixed results were Europe 1. Estonia has had internet voting since 2005. We went from 42 % abstention in the legislative elections to 38%, 36% and then 38% respectively, but we have stagnated since then. Abstention in elections other than legislative has begun to increase again.
Emmanuel Macron stated in his 2017 program that he would "generalize electronic vote by 2022", believing this will "widen participation, lower the cost of elections, and modernize politics' image." In September 2021, Gerald Darmanin, Interior Minister, stated that his ministry was working to develop digital voting while excluding its use in 2022. He expressed reservations about the process and said that he was particularly attached to the fact it is a "solitary character, vote".
A recent Odoxa poll found that two-thirds (or three quarters) of French citizens support digital voting. They believe it would decrease abstention. Only French citizens living abroad are currently able to vote online. This is not true for consular or legislative elections. They have had this option since 2012, but it was stopped in 2017 due to cyberattacks. But, this year's experience is not conclusive. Online voting for the first round in legislative elections was marred by malfunctions and glitches, which were open from May 27 through June 1.