I voted in the EU elections yesterday. Along with 18 other EU countries. And about that same number of individual voters. This makes it two major elections for me in the past year. Seven months since the US Presidential elections and now, the EU elections. The benefits of having dual citizenship.
The process was an easy one. There were no lines. There were hardly any people. In fact, I was the only one voting at the time. It was a bit different than an American election though. Starting with walking through the doors.
Standing in front of the doors, creating a gauntlet, were volunteers from four different parties handing out their ballots. I was amazed. And I did not like it at all. I felt that by the time I show up to vote, I need to be left alone to do that rather than being accosted by campaigners trying to get me to vote for their party.
Being the sneaky person that I am, I grabbed ballots from all of them so as not to tip my hand. Once inside, I chose the ballot that I actually wanted and went behind the green triangular curtain to make my choice.
The voting process involved choosing one ballot from a group of ballots advertising the different parties. You are then allowed to choose one person from that one ballot. At which point you stuff your envelope and seal it up. The one ballot one vote means you are essentially voting for a party. The individual voting is called a personröst. You’re voting for that specific person. Otherwise you’re just voting for the party and the party will allocate your vote to whichever candidate they prefer.
I chose a specific person. Because I like to be in control and didn’t want someone else allocating my vote. Having cast my vote, I went to the two lovely volunteers sitting at the desk with their binder full of personal identification numbers and handed over my ballot.
They checked my ID and personnummer and I had officially voted. I didn’t get any “I Voted” stickers like for the US elections though. It was all very simple. So simple, that the lack of people in the voting location was disappointing.
As mentioned, I was alone while I voted. Three other people walked in as I was walking out. Now, one voting locale does not an election make. But the turnout was not impressive. I had read the reports beforehand that turnout was expected to be low some showing that nearly 25% of the Swedish population didn’t even know there was an election going on. That’s not good. Still I was surprised though when faced with the reality of the no-shows.
Looking at the turnout results from the latest elections the EU had a rousing 45.6% of about 342 million eligible voters in 2004. The US is estimated to be around 61.7% of about 215 million eligible voters in 2008. Country by country in national elections, for example the US vs. Sweden, Sweden dominates. By a lot. Impressively so. But EU vs. US, the US actually came out ahead. This election was no different.
With pre-voting having ended on Saturday, only about 12% of eligible voters in Sweden had voted. In the end, only 42.5% of the voting population came out to vote. The Pirate Party made headlines by snagging a seat in the EU parliament. Some people are fired up because they think the party is only about file sharing. Which isn’t completely true. They want freedom of internet basically. Of course, they have no policies when it comes to any other issue. And they are proud of it.
Sweden, luckily, didn’t see the Swedish Democrats, the far-right party, grab a seat. Plenty of other countries did. From the UK to Hungary. That’s the problem when there is such low turnout. A loud minority with extremist ideas can do some damage.
As an American, having always heard that Europeans are so good at voting and that the US has such horrible turnout, I was disappointed to see the results of this election.
I spoke with a few Swedes who hadn’t voted. The excuse I often heard was one that I have heard in the US. The EU parliament seems too far away. It doesn’t really represent the people. There is just too much of a disconnect. Kind of like Washington DC.
I don’t really buy it. I enjoy voting. I think it’s important. I completely blame my AP government teacher from senior year in high school for that. So I voted. Unfortunately more Swedish citizens didn’t. And that doesn’t bode well for an EU that hopes to represent the European population.
Welcome to Sweden. Where voter turnout doesn’t always live up to its reputation.
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