French voters in the presidential election are using an old-school voting system that has defied calls for more flexibility or modernization.


Voters make their choices in a booth, with the curtains drawn, then place their ballot in an envelope which is then placed in a clear ballot box. They must show a photo ID and sign a document, along with their name, to complete the process.

Automatic voting has been allowed on an experimental basis, but the purchase of new machines has been frozen since 2008 for security reasons. Only about 60 cities still use them, out of the 35,000 municipalities in France.

Last year, Macron’s centrist government tried to pass an amendment to allow early voting by machine to encourage voter turnout amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The Senate, led by a conservative majority, rejected the measure, arguing that it was announced with too little notice and was not legally strong enough.

A national effort to simplify voter rolls, in particular to remove people who had died or changed addresses, made some people unable to vote in the first round of the April 10 presidential election. The state statistics agency reported that around 3,100 voters who were mistakenly removed were restored to the voting rolls in time for the second round.

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Voting by mail was banned in 1975 due to fears of possible fraud.

People who cannot go to the polls for various reasons can authorize another person to vote for them.

To do so, a voter must fill out a form in advance and bring it to a police station. Up to 7% of the people voted by proxy in the last presidential election five years ago. French people living abroad vote at embassies or consulates.

Local authorities can organize vans or buses to pick up older people from nursing homes to take them to polling stations, and prisons set up polling stations within their facilities.


Volunteers count the ballots one by one, by hand. Officials then use state-run software to record and report the results.

But legally only the paper counts. If a result is disputed, paper ballots are manually counted.

For cities that use machines, the results are recorded locally and then reported to the Home Office, which oversees the elections. The ministry said it received no reports of irregularities related to voting machines in the first round of voting on April 10.


Most of the pandemic restrictions have been lifted in the country. The number of cases is significantly lower than at the beginning of this year, but there are still more than 80,000 new confirmed infections every day.

People who test positive for the virus can go to the polls. They are strongly encouraged to wear a mask and follow other health guidelines.

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Voters can wash their hands at polling stations, which also have hand sanitizer available. The equipment must be cleaned frequently. Each polling station lets in fresh air for at least 10 minutes every hour.


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