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Electoral services

The Office of Electoral Services handles the administration of all national and European electoral events in which residents with voting rights in consular jurisdictions are called upon to participate.

POLITICAL ELECTIONS AND REFERENDUMS

Italian citizens residing abroad have the right to vote in Chamber of Deputies and Senate elections, as well as in popular referendums.
When there are political elections, they vote in the “Foreign Constituency” to elect 12 deputies and 6 senators.
The Foreign Constituency is split into four geographic sectors: a) Europe; b) South America; c) Northern and Central America; d) Africa, Asia, Oceania and Antarctica.
The voters elect representatives from the lists presented in the geographic sectors in which they reside. One deputy and one senator are elected in each sector, while the remaining seats are distributed among the sectors in proportion to the number of residents.
All Italian citizens residing abroad and aged 18, and who are registered on the electoral lists put together from an updated directory of residents abroad (the result of the merging of municipal AIRE Registries and consular records), have the right to vote.
To assist with the updating of personal information, Law 459 includes the obligation for voters to communicate updated personal information to the Consulate.
The candidates on the electoral lists presented in each geographic sector need to be registered as residents and voters in that sector.
Italian citizens residing abroad register their vote by absentee ballot. Eighteen days or more before the elections, the Consulate sends all voters a package containing their electoral certificate, an electoral ballot or ballots along with a small envelope in which to put them and a large self-addressed and stamped envelope; the lists of the candidates; a sheet explaining how to vote; and the text of Law 459/2001. The voter must send the completed ballots to the Consulate ten days or more before the elections. The Consulate then sees to the rapid delivery of the ballots to Italy so that they can be counted together with the ballots of voters living in Italy.
Any voter who has not received an electoral package at least fourteen days before the date of the elections, can request it by going in person to the local Consulate.
The diplomatic representations establish agreements with the governments of countries where Italian citizens reside in order to guarantee that absentee voting is exercised in conditions of equality, freedom and secrecy; and that no negative consequences can ensue for voters either general and in their workplaces. Italian citizens residing in countries where it was not possible to establish such an agreement can only vote by returning to Italy to do so.
The running of the election campaign will also be regulated by special forms of collaboration with the foreign governments, and differently from what happens in the case of the agreements mentioned above, should it not take place, this will not prevent the exercising by post of voting rights.
Italian citizens resident abroad are not obliged to vote by post. Law 459 lays down that the voter can opt to exercise his right to vote in Italy, by returning to Italy and voting for the candidates standing for the constituency in the relative national section in which the voter is registered.
The voter who intends to return to Italy to vote will have to communicate this fact in writing to their Consulate by the 31st of December of the year preceding the natural expiration of the legislature, or, in the case of an early dissolution of the houses of Parliament, within 10 days from the setting of the election date. This choice is valid for a single election or referendum.
No provisions are made for refunding the travel expenses of those who have opted to vote in Italy.
Voting in Italy remains however the obligatory method of voting for Italian citizens resident in countries with which it has been impossible to establish the aforementioned agreements, as well as for residents in countries whose socio-political situation does not guarantee, even temporarily, the respect of the conditions of such an agreement. In these cases, and moreover, for voters living in countries devoid of Italian diplomatic representations, the right to a 75 per cent refund of travel expenses to cover their trip to Italy, is foreseen. In this case, the voter will have to present the relevant request to their Consulate, as well as their electoral certificate and travel ticket.

EUROPEAN ELECTIONS

Law no. 459/2001 concerning the right to vote in a foreign country does not apply to the European elections, which are governed by Law No. 18 of 24 January 1979 and later amendments. The system of absentee voting therefore does not apply to the European elections: Italian voters eligible for this right and resident in European Union countries can go to the polls set up by the local Diplomatic and Consulate network.
Italian voters residing in a foreign country can also opt, within the timeframe foreseen by the law, to vote for candidates of their country of residence; they may also return to Italy, making use of special travel rates, to vote in the municipality where they have their residence.

COMMITTEES OF ITALIANS ABROAD (COM.IT.ES.)

Instituted by Law no. 205/1985, the Com.It.Es. are representative bodies for Italian communities elected directly by Italians residing abroad in every Consular jurisdiction where there are over 3,000 Italian nationals; in fact, wherever there are at least 3,000 Italian citizens, the Committees can be appointed by the diplomatic-consular authorities.
Com.it.Es regulations were heavily amended by Law of 26 October 2003, No. 286 and by Presidential Decree of 29 December 2003, No. 395 (Implementation Regulation). Among the many changes was the introduction of the absentee ballot in Committee elections; the law refers to the procedure foreseen by the Law of 27 December 201 No. 459: the electoral base is the same as that foreseen for the election of national parliamentary representatives.
The Com.It.Es are made up of 12 or 18 members, depending on whether they are elected in consular jurisdictions with more or less than 100,000 Italian nationals residing, which result as being on the updated list used to elect national parliamentary representatives. Once elected, the Committee can then decide to co-opt 4 to 6 of its members who are foreign citizens of Italian origin.
Art. 1 paragraph 2 of Law 286/2003 represents a truly new perspective, defining the Com.It.Es. for the first time as “bodies representative of Italians abroad in their relations with the diplomatic-consular representations”. Their role is thus enhanced with regard to the society of which they are an expression as well as with regard to the consular authorities. The new law emphasises the close relationship of collaboration and cooperation that should exist between consular authorities and the Committees, also by means of the “steady flow of information”.
As regards their function, the Com.It.Es contribute to studyies and research and defining the needs implied by the social, cultural and civil development of their reference communities; particular attention is given to young people, equal opportunity, social and scholastic assistance, professional training, the recreational sector, sport and leisure activities.
The Committees are also called upon to cooperate with the consular authorities in the protection of the rights and interests of Italian citizens residing in the consular jurisdiction. Following the March 2004 elections there are now 126 Com.It.Es operating in 38 countries: 69 of these are in Europe, 23 in Latin America, 4 in Central American, 16 in North America, 7 in Asia and 7 in Africa.

ELECTIONS OF THE COMITES OF ITALIAN CITIZENS RESIDING ABROAD

Members of the COMITES are elected on the basis of lists of candidates supported by Italian citizens residing in each consular jurisdiction.
Adult Italian citizens residing abroad and registered in the electoral lists, may vote by absentee ballot (according to the system authorized by Law no. 459/2001), and no longer need to go to the polls in person as previously required.
In order to permit citizens to make use of the absentee ballot, the consular office must send an envelope, in due time according to the law, containing all the electoral correspondence and an information sheet to facilitate the voting process.
Carefully following the instructions, the citizen completes the ballot and returns it to his consular office by post, using the pre-stamped envelope. The envelope must be returned as quickly as possible.

THE GENERAL COUNCIL OF ITALIANS ABROAD (CGIE)

Established by Law of 6 November 1989, No. 368 (amended by Law of 18 June 1998, No. 198), and regulated by Presidential Decree of 14 September 1998, No. 329, the CGIE carries out advisory activities for the government on matters of major interest for Italians abroad. The Council represents the first step in the process of developing active “participation” in the political life of the country by Italian communities residing abroad, and constitutes an institution essential to facilitating their permanent connection to Italy.
The General Council of Italians Abroad meets at the following levels: Plenary Assembly, Continental Committees and committees treating different subject matters. It is made up of 94 members, 65 of which are elected directly every five years by Italians abroad through local electoral assemblies (the latest elections took place in June 2004 on the basis of a geographic distribution defined by the Foreign Affairs Ministry Decree of 4 May 2004). In addition to the elected members, there are 29 members appointed by Decree of the Prime Minister, on the recommendations of the National Emigration Associations, the parties represented in parliament, the trade union organisations and by the most representative charitable institutions.
The President of the CGIE is the Minister for Foreign Affairs, while the following posts are elected: the Secretary General (who convenes the Plenary Assembly and the Presidential Committee, organises its work programme and implements its decisions taken); the four Deputy Secretaries General for the three geographic areas (Europe and North Africa; Latin America; Non-European English-speaking countries) and for the group of members appointed by the government; and the Presidential Committee (made up of 17 members), that meets at least six times a year. During the two annual plenary assemblies, the advisory body, the CGIE, examines the problems of Italian communities abroad, formulates opinions, proposals and recommendations in terms of state or regional legislative or administrative initiatives, international agreements and EU provisions concerning Italian communities abroad. In particular, the CGIE formulates an obligatory opinion on the government’s objectives with regard to the following topics: state financial support for Italian communities abroad; long-term programmes and financial arrangements in respect of educational policy, professional training and social and welfare protection; criteria for the allocation of funds to national associations, charitable organisations, professional training bodies, press and information bodies; radio and television programmes for the Italian communities abroad; guidelines for the reforming of the consular, education and social services.

ELECTIONS OF THE GENERAL COUNCIL FOR ITALIANS ABROAD (CGIE)

The General Council for Italians Abroad (CGIE) is made up of 94 members in office for 5 years. A total of 65 of these are elected to represent the communities of Italians residing abroad.
The elected members are chosen by an assembly formed for each country – or group of countries – by properly established COMITES and by associations of Italian communities, in numbers not to exceed 30% of the members of the COMITES in European countries, and 45% of transoceanic countries.
In countries where COMITES are not established, the association of Italian communities operating in loco for at least 5 years are to propose twice as many names for the list of diplomatic representatives compared to the expected number.
The remaining 29 members appointed by the government and assigned as follows:
– 10 from the national emigration associations;
– 7 from parties with parliamentary representation;
– 9 from trade unions and from the most representative charitable institutions and that are represented on the CNEL (National Council for Economy and Labour);
– 1 from the National Press Federation;
– 1 from the United Federation of the Italian press abroad;
– 1 from the most representative organisation of border labourers.