How to vote in the Swedish elections

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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Bishop’s sermon at the opening of the Riksdag

Stockholm bishop Eva Brunne's sermon addressing racism at the opening of Sweden's parliament, the Riksdag, on Tuesday has been the topic of intense discussion. Here is the full text of her words in English.

Bishop's sermon at the opening of the Riksdag

Editor’s Note: The speech was delivered to the assembled members of parliament, the King, Queen and other dignitaries in Stockholm Cathedral on Tuesday, October 5th.

During the speech, the leader of the far-right Sweden Democrats and his 19 parliamentary colleagues stood up and left the church in protest at the subject matter addressed by the bishop.

Åkesson later apologised to the King, but claimed that Brunne’s reference to anti-racism demonstrations held across Sweden the night before left the Sweden Democrats with no choice but to leave.

Brunne later explained that the speech was not specifically directed against any particular party but reflected an interpretation of modern events and developments using the gospel.

Here is the speech, translated in full:

(Texts: The Wisdom of Solomon 7:15-22, I Thessalonians 5:16-24 , Luke 19:37-40)

Congratulations on your mandate. Congratulations to you who have been chosen with confidence. Almost 85 percent, or slightly more than six million people, consider you to be the best equipped to shape a positive present and sound future for us all. It is a great thing to be carried by such a confidence. And the task is given to you collectively. Not for each and every individual. Once chosen you are part of a context where your combined efforts are worth more than the will of each and every individual. After all, is that not how democracy works? It is about raising your gaze from your own interests and put to the public good. To take in Bastuträsk, Tomelilla, Göteborg, Grästorp, Husum and Visby. Politics, in one sense, is taken to mean living together in a city. Then it is also about raising one’s gaze still further, because we do not live only within ourselves. Our task and our responsibility is greater than the borders of the nation. There is a world which needs us – our solidarity, our money and not least our eyes and our voices.

There is much that is demanded of you, but do not lose heart. We are behind you, we who have given you your mandate, to speak on our behalf. Because is that not how democracy works?

We have to listen to the gospel. It was not the Swedish Riksdag that Paul was adressing, but a group of people in the city of Thessaloniki. To them he said: We exhort you to value those who have the heaviest burden among you, those at the fore. Show them respect and appreciation. And he continued with the advice: Don’t quench the Spirit, test all things, and hold firmly to that which is good. These are words also for all of us who have voted, and for all you who have been elected with trust.

Salomon in his wisdom neither wrote of the Swedish Riksdag, but the words could also be addressed to you: God is the guide of wisdom. God leads us on the correct path. For both we and our words are in his hands, as are all understanding and professional skill. Wisdom – she who with her craft has shaped everything. Words of mercy more than of demand. Everything does not rest on myself, nor my party.

When Jesus approached Jerusalem and the disciples allowed their happiness to be heard, a group of farisees asked if Jesus could silence his disciples. One wonders why they could not address the disciples directly. They were, after all, adult human beings. And the answer they received was thus: if these remain silent, the stones will cry out.

What was it that they had experienced on their way. Yes, among other things, a blind man was cured and could live his life fully and whole. And then the meeting with the despised tax collector Zachaeus. He who climbed the tree to be able to see, but perhaps also to hide. To the blind man, Jesus said: What do you want me to do for you? To Zachaeus he said: Come down from the tree, I want to visit your home. The meeting, face to face and eye to eye, in conversation, which made a lifelong impact on the the blind man and Zachaeus. This was what the disciples had experienced. The massive change for the two people. This was why they could not keep their joy to themselves. And if they had been silenced, then the stones would have cried out over the importance of this great change. The transformation which literally became of decisive importance.

It is these changes for people which are a large part of your mission. And in that you should never move far away from us who gave you your mandate that we are unable to you meet face to face, that you never cease from calling someone down from the tree and saying: I want to talk with you. To hear someone’s cry and say: What do you want me to do for you?

We who believe in people’s dignity and equal value, regardless of the country in which we are born, regardless of which gender or age we have, regardless of how our sexuality is expressed, we believe and hope that you continue to have the ability to say: I want to talk to you, and the enduring desire to ask the question: What can I do for you? And feel the great pleasure in the change that this can achieve.

Yesterday evening thousands of people gathered in Stockholm and in various parts of the country to make their voices heard. To call out their disgust at that which divides people. The racism which says that you don’t have as much worth as I do; that you shouldn’t have the same rights as me; aren’t worthy of living in freedom, and that is the only reason – that we happen to born in different parts of our world – that is not worthy of a democracy like ours to differentiate between people. It is not possible for people of faith to differentiate between people. Here it is not sufficient to give a couple of hundred people a mandate to speak on our behalf. Here we have a joint mission. And if anyone remains quiet or is silenced in the fight for human value, then we have to see to it that the stones also cry out. We do this with the help of God.

We have much to do. Cunning, courage and care are required. Feel joy in the mission. Feel the gravity of the mission. Feel the mandate from us. Test all things, and hold firmly to that which is good. Don’t differentiate between people. Feel the grace to rest in the God who created us.

With that in mind, we continue the present, towards the future.

Eva Brunne

Bishop in the diocese of Stockholm

Translation by The Local