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Local elections: How do I cast my vote this Sunday?
About 50,000 non-Belgians in the Brussels region are registered to vote in this Sunday's local elections, taking place all over the country. For many of them, it will be their first time voting in Belgium. So what should you expect to happen on polling day?
By casting a vote, you’ll be able to decide on many of the things affecting the day-to-day goings-on in your neighbourhood. Compared to countries like the UK and France, municipalities have much more power in Belgium, as they are able to decide on matters from land planning, public roads, cleanliness and economic development to social aid and the municipal schools in their territories. Read here why some of the expats we interviewed will be having their say in the local elections.
If you successfully registered to vote with your commune before the end of July, you should have received a confirmation letter that you are on the electoral roll. You should also have recently received a 'convocation' - a polling card that you must bring with you to the polling station (the address is mentioned on it) along with your ID card.
If you didn't receive your polling card, you're not alone. Recent media reports suggest several thousand residents in Brussels-City have not had theirs delivered. Problems have also been reported in Woluwe-Saint-Lambert, Koekelberg and Saint-Gilles.
In Brussels-City, duplicates are being sent out. Elsewhere, you should head to your town hall with your ID card to obtain a duplicate. All town halls in Brussels will be open this Sunday morning until midday.
It's worth noting that Walloon public transport TEC is offering free travel for voters on Sunday. The SNCB is also issuing free tickets on presentation of your polling card.
At the polling station
Voting in the Brussels region is done electronically on a touch-screen terminal. Hand over your polling card and your ID to the officer and you will be given a chip card. Take it to one of the booths and insert the card in the machine.
Select a language (French or Dutch) and then tap on the electoral list you wish to vote for. You can either tick the top of the list if you are satisfied with how the candidates are ranked, or cast a preferential vote by selecting one or several individual candidates. Popular candidates with many of these preferential votes can be voted into power this way even if they are ranked on a low place in their party list. You can cast a blank vote without being sanctioned (only failing to turn up at all is an offence).
Press confirm. A ballot slip is printed out, which should be folded in half and taken to the ballot box. Scan the slip's barcode and post it through the hole. Here's a handy video setting out the procedure (in the Brussels region):
Voting is compulsory in Belgium, so if you can’t vote in person – because of work, holidays, study or sickness – you’ll need to nominate a proxy to vote on your behalf. That person must be a registered voter, and while they can live anywhere in Belgium, they have to go to the polling station in your municipality to cast your vote. They can only act as a proxy for one person, so if you and your partner are both going to be away on the day of the election, you’ll each need to find a different person to vote on your behalf.
To register a proxy voter, both parties need to fill in and sign a P1 form. If you're absent for work, medical or study reasons, you'll need to provide a declaration to that effect from your employer, doctor or institution. The proxy takes these documents with them on the day of the vote, along with your polling card and their ID card. If you’re going to be out of town for personal reasons, the procedure is slightly different: you also have to fill in the P2 form, which you need to take to your town hall before polling day, along with your voting card and any supporting documents to prove your absence – travel bookings, for example. An official will certify your papers, and your proxy will have to present them at the polling station on Sunday, along with their ID card and both your voting cards.
For more information, see the Commissioner.Brussels website.