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  • Writer's pictureVeronika Bajnoková

Slovak expats in the Netherlands face hurdles when voting by mail

Parliamentary elections are being held in Slovakia this Saturday. The Ministry of Interior received a record number of mail voting requests from abroad but thousands of them returned undelivered. Complications cause stress, particularly for students who are left uncertain whether they will be able to exercise their democratic rights.

Early elections to the National Council of the Slovak Republic will be held on Saturday after the Slovak government lost a no-confidence vote at the end of the previous year. A total of 72 993 citizens registered to vote by mail from abroad. Votes must be delivered to the Ministry of Interior by noon on September 29, 2023, to be counted.

So far, 40,500 voters who requested to vote from abroad have sent their votes. This was announced by Eva Chmelová, Director of the Department of Elections at the Ministry of Interior, at a press conference last Thursday.

Chmelová also stated that approximately 7,000 envelopes sent to voters who requested to vote from abroad were returned undelivered. She added that only some of them were sent again before the deadline for repeated submission on September 20, 2023.

The official website of the Ministry of Interior of the Slovak Republic for registration to vote by mail © Veronika Bajnoková

Troubles with receiving the mail

Among those affected by the problems are Slovak students abroad, who requested not to have their last names mentioned in the article. Hana who lives here in Groningen faced issues with voting by mail when her envelope was returned to the Ministry of Interior as undelivered. The university student registered to vote by mail already in July but missed its delivery when she returned to Slovakia for the summer.

Hana hoped to authorize one of her Slovak roommates to collect the mail but none were available. “No one was here during the summer. Everyone went home, just like me,” she said.

However, Hana says not everyone encountered this problem: “The postman just threw the envelope for my roommates in the mailbox, so I hoped that I would be lucky too.”

Ellen, another student in Groningen encountered a similar problem when her envelope was returned undelivered in July. “I was travelling all summer, and I knew some people got the envelope in their mailbox even when they weren’t at home, but that wasn’t my case.”

Both Hana and Ellen requested the voting materials to be resent before September 20 and successfully submitted their votes. However, they think this issue needs to be addressed before the next elections.

Postal vote envelope in Groningen © Zuzana Ľudvíková

Post office confusion

Diana faced a different challenge when mailing her ballot from Groningen to Slovakia. The student sent the envelope on September 10 but received it back from the Dutch postal service two days later.

A standard envelope in Slovakia has the address of the recipient written in the bottom right corner and the address of the sender in the upper left corner. But PostNL mailed the envelope back to Diana because “the address seemed more familiar and logical than the address of the Slovak Ministry of Interior,” says Diana.

PostNL advised Diana to cross out her address and indicate the recipient’s address by writing “send here” on the envelope. The mail was received by the Slovak Ministry of Interior successfully but Diana described the process as “stressful and time-consuming.”

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