Everything you need to know about voting on election day in Sweden

Did you forget your voting card or your ID? How late are polling stations open? What happens if you change your mind?

Everything you need to know about voting on election day in Sweden
Election envelopes at a polling station at Hästhagens sporthall in Malmö on Sunday afternoon. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

When are polling stations open on election day? 

Most polling stations in Sweden are open for twelve hours between 8am and 8pm. You can find your polling station on the voting card, which you should have had sent to the address where you are registered.  

How do I find my polling station? 

You can find the polling station where you are registered, here on the Election Authority’s webpage. Once you get to your municipality, you can find a map with all of the polling stations marked on it. 

The ballot papers have different colours, what do they mean? 

The white voting slip is for the municipal election, the blue one for the regional election, and the yellow one for the national election. 

READ ALSO: Can I vote in the 2022 Swedish election?

Some ballot papers have a list of names on them and some don’t, which should I take? 

At the polling booth, there are different ballot papers for each of the three elections taking place: yellow papers are for the Riksdag elections, blue for the county council, and white for the municipal council. 

There are also three different kinds of ballot papers, allowing you to vote either for a particular party (without identifying a specific candidate), to choose from a list of candidates as well as parties, or to vote using a blank ballot paper. On blank ballot papers, you can write down any party and candidate. In theory, it’s possible to write anyone’s name, and if that person got a large enough proportion of votes, they would be elected.

You then put the ballot paper you picked in an envelope and hand it to the election officer in the room.

How has the system changed in this election? 

Following criticism from the Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the way voters collect their ballot papers has been changed in this year’s election. 

In previous elections, voters would pick ballot papers for the party they wanted to vote for in an open area of polling stations.

The OSCE, in its report on the 2018 election, said that this was a threat to voting secrecy, as others in the polling station can tell which party a person is voting for by looking at which paper they pick up.

In this election, the area holding the ballot papers will be for the first time have to be shielded from public view, so that ballot papers can be picked up in secrecy. 

Previously the only way to keep your vote secret was to collect several different ballots before going behind the screen to vote. 

Who is responsible for making sure there are ballot papers at the polling station? 

In this election, for the first time, it is the voting clerks at the polling stations who responsible for making sure that all the ballot papers with lists of candidates’ names are available.

The political parties are responsible for printing them and delivering them to each polling station, and also for ensuring that they do not run out. 

Voting clerks are responsible for displaying ballot papers for all political parties who have received more than one percent of the vote nationally over the last two elections, and for all parties which are already represented in the municipal and regional governments.

What happens if I spell a party or candidate’s name wrong when filling in a ballot paper myself? 

If if it possible to interpret what you mean, your vote will still be counted. 

Can I vote without an ID card? 

Yes you can, but someone has to come with you who can confirm your identity. 

Can I vote without my voting card? 

If you know which polling station you are registered at, and have proof of your identity, they will let you vote even if you have lost your voting card. 

Can I ask someone to vote for me if I can’t get to the polling station myself? 

Yes, you can appoint a proxy as your representative, if you are too old, sick, or disabled to vote yourself. If you cannot find a suitable person, if you contact your municipality, they can send a travelling election clerk to your home. 

If you are in prison or pre-trial detention, the prison wardens will also help you to arrange a proxy vote. 

What can make my vote illegitimate? 

Your vote will be ruled illegitimate if you vote for a party which has no candidates in the election, if your ballot paper is completely blank and lacks a party name, or if the voting envelope contains two or more ballot papers, or if it in some way reveals the identity of the voter. 

Can you change your mind? 

If you voted early, it is possible to change your mind simply by voting again at the polling station where you are registered. Your new vote will then take precedence. 

Once you have voted on voting day at your polling station, however, it is too late to change your mind.

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Why is Sweden’s parliamentary speaker election so important?

Sweden's parliamentary speaker is second only to the King in terms of formal rank. The prospect of a Sweden Democrat speaker taking over the role from popular Moderate Andreas Norlén has sparked debate. Here's why.

Why is Sweden's parliamentary speaker election so important?

On Monday, Sweden’s newly-elected parliament will elect a new speaker – talman in Swedish, but it’s still not clear who is likely to take over the post from Moderate Andreas Norlén, who has held the position since 2018.

How is a speaker candidate usually chosen?

There is no formal rule on how a speaker candidate is nominated, with the Social Democrats usually insisting the largest party supplies the speaker, and the Moderates arguing that the largest party in their bloc should provide the speaker.

Until now, that has meant that the Social Democrats believe the speaker should be a Social Democrat, and the Moderates believe the speaker should be a Moderate.

However, with the Sweden Democrats now the second-largest party in Sweden’s parliament, they have made claims on the speaker post, as they are now the largest party in their bloc, meaning under the Moderates’ rules, they should supply the speaker.

This has made the question of who should take over as the new speaker unusually charged.

Often – but not always, the speaker has been from the same party or bloc as the government. However, there are examples, such as in the case of Norlén, who has held the post despite there being a Social Democrat government for the last eight years, as there was a majority supporting him in parliament.

Moderate Party leader Ulf Kristersson sits down for a talk with Andreas Norlén, speaker of the Swedish parliament. Photo: Anders Wiklund / TT

How is the speaker elected?

The first time parliament meets after an election, members of parliament (MPs) decide which MP will become the parliamentary speaker and which three MPs will become the deputy speakers. These four speakers are elected in separate ballots, first the speaker, then the first deputy speaker, the second deputy speaker and the third deputy speaker.

The candidates are nominated by parliamentary party groups, after which a secret ballot is held where each MP votes anonymously. To be successful, a speaker candidate must secure a majority of votes – 175.

If no candidate secures a majority, another vote is held, where a candidate must still gain 175 or more votes to win.

If no candidate is successful, a third vote is held, where the candidate with the most votes is elected – they do not need a majority.

If the third vote ends in a tie between two candidates, lots are drawn to determine which candidate is elected speaker.

A speaker is elected for an entire election period – they cannot be removed by parliament during this period, and the role can only change hands after a new parliamentary election, which usually means that a speaker sits for four years at a time.

What does the speaker do?

The speaker – aside from being the second-highest ranking official in the country after the King – holds a prestigious position.

They do not have political influence and, if elected, must resign from their role as a member of parliament. But they have an important role to play in building a government, nominating Sweden’s new prime minister after an election and dismissing the prime minister if they lose a no-confidence vote.

Although there are checks on these powers – a new prime minister must be approved by parliament before they take power – a speaker could, theoretically, nominate four prime ministerial candidates to parliament in succession, knowing that each would lose a parliamentary vote, and thereby trigger a general election.

The speaker, currently Andreas Norlén (left) regularly welcomes foreign dignitaries alongside Sweden’s King Carl Gustaf. Here seen with King Carl Gustaf (left) and Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö (centre).
Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

The speaker could also theoretically refuse to nominate a prime ministerial candidate despite them being the leader of the largest bloc, although this has never happened in practice.

It is also impossible for parliament to remove a speaker once they are elected, unless a new parliamentary election is held and an entire new parliament is elected, meaning that if a speaker were to misuse their powers, it would be difficult for parliament to replace them.

The speaker is the main representative of parliament, leading and planning parliamentary activities. The speaker is chairman of meetings in the parliamentary chamber and is an official representative for Sweden at home and abroad.

Why would it be controversial if the Sweden Democrats supplied the speaker?

Electing a Sweden Democrat speaker would be a win for the far-right party, as a confirmation that the party has finally been accepted into the corridors of power.

According to a source at newspaper Aftonbladet, the four parties backing Moderate Party leader Ulf Kristersson to become Sweden’s next prime minister have already agreed on stricter migration and crime policies, as well as who should be voted in as speaker of the country’s parliament when the role goes up for a vote on Monday. 

Multiple parties in the left-wing bloc have objected to a Sweden Democrat supplying the speaker, with outgoing Social Democrat Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson stating that her party is willing to collaborate with the Moderates and reelect Andreas Norlén as Sweden’s speaker instead in order to avoid a Sweden Democrat taking on the role.

Andersson said her party would be willing to “make an exception” to its principle. “We think there are arguments at this time, to have a speaker who can be appointed with very broad support in the parliament. What’s important is that it’s someone who can bring people together, either a Social Democrat or a Moderate”.

“I can state that Andreas Norlén enjoys great respect, both in the parliament, and among the Swedish people,” she said. “He has handled his duties creditably and during a turbulent time, and a problematic parliamentary situation.”

She said she was offering to discuss the issue with Kristersson to avoid the risk of a Sweden Democrat speaker, something she said would be “problematic”.

“This is a party whose whole rationale is to split rather than unite. This is also about the picture of Sweden overseas.”

Moderate Party leader Ulf Kristersson has not responded to Andersson’s comments.

Sweden Democrat former deputy speaker Björn Söder (left) and party leader Jimmie Åkesson (right). Photo: Jessica Gow//TT

There are also some MPs in the Liberal Party – who have agreed to support a Moderate-led government alongside the Sweden Democrats – who have stated they will not approve a government with Sweden Democrat ministers, and may also vote against letting them have the role of speaker.

Sweden Democrat Björn Söder, who held the role of deputy speaker between 2014-18, is a possible candidate for the far-right party. Söder is a controversial figure, having previously stated that Jewish people and Sami are “not Swedes”, leading to calls that he is not suitable for a role as a representative for all of Sweden.

Söder has also previously likened homosexuality to pedophilia and bestiality, stating in an article on the Sweden Democrats’ official online news site that “these sexual aversions are not normal and will never be normal”.

A public petition against electing Björn Söder as parliament’s new speaker had over 65,000 signatures as of September 23rd.