Referendum on Saeima to Have Record Number of Polling Stations Abroad

A record number of polling stations abroad—78 in all—will operate July 23 for Latvian citizens to vote in a referendum that could result in dissolution of the parliament, or Saeima.

The Central Election Commission in R?ga announced June 21 that it has approved a Ministry of Foreign Affairs proposal to operate polling stations in 41 countries outside Latvia. In last October’s parliamentary vote, during which the legislators who may now lose their jobs were elected, 64 polling stations operated abroad.

The increase in polling stations is due to not enough time being available for voters abroad to apply for mail ballots, election commission Chairman Arnis Cimdars said in a press release. Applications for mail ballots are due July 1.

The referendum is the result of President Valdis Zatlers calling May 28 for dissolution of the parliament. If the referendum succeeds, the 10th Saeima will be dissolved and new elections will be called. If the referendum fails, according to the Latvian constitution, the president instead must step down. However, in Zatlers’ case that would be moot, because his four-year term expires July 7. Zatlers failed to win re-election during a June 2 vote in the Saeima.

In the United States, polling stations will be open in the embassy in Washington, D.C., and in Latvia’s representative office in New York, as well as in Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, St. Petersburg, San Francisco, Seattle, and the Latvian Center Ga?ezers near Three Rivers, Mich.

Voters in Canada will be able to decide on the referendum in the Latvian embassy in Ottawa as well as in polling stations in Toronto and Montréal.

In the United Kingdom, voters in London will be able to visit the Latvian embassy, while additional polling stations will operate in Bradford, Mansfield and Peterborough; in Newry, Northern Ireland; and at the Straum?ni rest home in Catthorpe.

Voters in Ireland will be able to cast ballots in the Latvian embassy in Dublin as well as in Limerick.

Denmark for the first time will see two polling stations: one in the Latvian embassy in Copenhagen and another in Vejle in the west central part of the country.

Sweden will see polling stations open in the embassy in Stockholm and in Göteborg.

Voters in Germany will have seven choices: the embassy in Berlin and polling stations in Bonn, Esslingen, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich and Münster.

In Australia, polling stations are to be open in Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney.

The other countries where polling stations will be open are Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Chile, China, Egypt, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Venezuela.

Polling stations will be open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. local time. Voters must be at least 18 years old and must bring a valid Latvian passport to the polling station.
Vote by mail deadline

Voters will not be in Latvia or cannot visit one of the polling stations abroad will be able to make their referendum choice by mail.

Mail ballot requests must be sent to one of the 23 Latvian embassies or consulates that are handling registrations. The requests must include a completed application form and a valid Latvian passport.

The application form and complete instructions are available on the website of the Central Election Commission.

The election commission also provides a list of the 23 offices accepting mail ballot requests.

By Andris Strautmanis. Andris Straumanis is editor of Latvians Online.