How to vote in the Swedish elections

The Local
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Voting may not seem that complicated, but doing so in a different country can be. The Local has thus endeavoured to help any first-time voters by covering some of the basics about how to vote in Sweden.


Who can vote?

All Swedish citizens who have turned 18 by Election Day are eligible to vote in elections to the Riksdag.

In addition to Swedish citizens, non-Swedes who have been registered as permanent residents in the country for at least three years can vote in elections to county councils and municipal councils.

The three-year condition is however waived for registered permanent residents from other EU member states, Norway, and Iceland.

Where do I vote?

Voting takes places at polling stations, one of which is found in every electoral district in the country.

Electoral districts generally cover areas with 1,000-2,000 voters, with each district operating its own electoral rolls to include the names of the voters registered in that district.

To find the nearest polling station check this page (in Swedish) from the Swedish Election Authority website. Click where you live on the map, or find your county listed on the left side of the page.

In addition to voting at a polling station on Election Day, voters can cast their ballots in advance at one of several advance voting locations.

Unlike voting on Election Day, when voters must cast their ballots at the polling station of the district in which they live, advance voting can take place at any advance polling station in the country. Voters are also able to change their votes if they so wish on election day.

Who and what am I voting for?

On Election Day, voters choose representatives to three different levels of government: to the national parliament (Riksdag); to one of twenty country administrative boards (landstingsfullmäktige); and to one of 290 local municipal councils (kommunfullmäktige).

Each election requires a separate ballot. Ballot papers are yellow for parliamentary elections, blue for county council elections and white for municipal elections.

What’s the difference between a voting card and a ballot?

Voting cards are sent to registered voters by the Election Authority approximately 2-3 weeks before Election Day. The cards are sent to a voter’s registered address on file with the Swedish Tax Agency.

The voting cards include information about where a person should vote and are to be presented at the voter’s polling station on Election Day. If you lose your voting card, replacements are available from the municipal election committee, county administrative board, or the Election Authority.

Ballots, on the other hand are found at polling stations and are the papers used to actually cast a vote. In addition to colour coded ballots corresponding to the different representative bodies contesting in Swedish elections, there are also three different types of ballots corresponding to the type of vote one wishes to cast:

Name Ballot: ballot papers with party name and candidate names.

Party Ballot: ballot papers with party name but no candidate names.

Blank Ballot: ballot papers on which a party name may be written in.

How do I actually cast a ballot?

Take your voting card and a valid form of identification to your assigned polling location. Once you’ve been checked in, you can duck into a booth to cast your vote in privacy.

In actuality, you will cast three votes (if you are a Swedish citizen with full voting rights): one for the Riksdag, one for the county administrative board, and one for your local municipal council.

In addition, as most of the country’s major (and some not so major) parties have ballot papers printed up and distributed to each polling station you can expect to have to wade through quite a sea of paper.

If you are keen on a specific candidate, put a cross by his or her name on one of the Name Ballots. That will ensure your support goes to your favorite candidate when it comes time to assign seats won by their party. Such a vote is also, in effect, a vote for the party to which the candidate of your choice represents.

If you don’t really care about a specific candidate, but have a particular party you want to vote for, then choose one of the Party Ballots.

And you can also write in a party name on a blank ballot if there no ballot papers present for the party of your choice.

Once you’ve marked your choice, place the ballot papers in the appropriate envelopes, drop the envelopes in the ballot box, and voila! You’ve exercised your democratic right to vote!

What if I change my mind?

Well, if you voted in advance, but suddenly have a change of heart before Election Day, you’re in luck. People who vote in advance can change their vote, but it must be done in person at a polling station on Election Day.

I still have a few more questions. Where should I go?

The Local admits that this guide is by no means exhaustive, but is meant instead to give a quick overview. For those of you thirsting for more information about how exactly ballot papers are examined or how seats are distributed, we suggest you check out the English language section of the Swedish Election Authority’s website, from which much of the above information was gathered.

To return to the election guide main page, click here.


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