One of the biggest changes in the new Hungarian electoral system (link a választási háttércikkről) is that a person doesn’t have to have permanent residence in Hungary to vote. According to the constitution if a person has Hungarian citizenship, that person can vote and this includes the children and grandchildren of Hungarians even if they were born outside of the country.
Those who don’t have residence in Hungary can vote only for a party list, not for a candidate and their vote count a quarter of a normal vote.
How can people vote abroad?
Voters registered in the roll abroad either receive their ballots by mail or can collect them at embassies or consulates.
After filling out the ballot voters can send it in an envelope (along with proof of ID) to the National Electoral Office, national consulates or any electoral office of the single-member constituencies. The voting is anonymous and authorities keep only the ballot, not the envelope with the name of the person.
The ballots have to be sent before election day in order to be valid.
Ballots are also considered invalid if the personal data on the electoral roll differs from that contained in the ID document sent by mail.
How significant might votes arriving from abroad be in this election?
It depends on the number of ballots cast outside the country, since Hungarians living abroad can only vote for party lists. According to estimates only 1 or 2 seats might be determined by votes cast abroad. Only in extreme cases will they decide which political party gets the majority in the parliament.
Most polling experts say that votes cast abroad are important mainly to understand which Hungarian party has the most supporters outside the country.
Voting by mail: a chance to cheat?
Voting by mail is a common method in several European countries, but it is true that it gives more scope for electoral fraud. The purpose of this form of voting is to allow as many people as possible to vote in as simple a manner as possible. Nevertheless several problems can occur with postal ballots: the postal service can deliver them late, the ballots can disappear, be stolen or fail to arrive at the National Electoral Office because of misdirection.
To help avoid this problem the voter can take his ballot to an electoral office set up in a consulate 15 days before the elections or take it to a polling station in Hungary on election day.
But the law doesn’t guarantee that the ballots will be submitted in person so, in theory, it’s possible that one person could deliver the votes of a whole village.
There are other causes of possible misuse. Though ballot papers sent by mail must arrive at the NVI by midnight the day before the elections in order to be valid, the Office processes the urns containing the ballots for 4 more days after that and opens them only 5 days after the elections.
Another suspicion is that fake people who do not exist, or recently deceased people, might have been registered in the roll. Since the ballot packages are delivered to them as well, it is easy to imagine that others could fill those ballots and send them back in their name. To avoid this, the law authorizes the NVI to make controls (comparing the registration requests with the roll of Hungarian citizens) but it remains an imperfect solution.
Why is it forbidden to vote online?
Many countries allow online voting, but Hungary is not one of them. According to the governing party, the reason is that online voting is not secure enough and can generate misuse.