How to vote by post as a foreign resident in Denmark’s local elections

Entry to a local town hall. Advance votes for local elections can be given at many locations in Denmark, including by eligible foreign residents.
Advance votes for local elections can be given at many locations in Denmark, including by eligible foreign residents. Photo: Henning Bagger/Ritzau Scanpix
If you are a foreign resident in Denmark, there’s a good chance you can have a say in upcoming municipal and regional elections.

Votes by post can now be submitted for Denmark’s municipal elections (kommunalvalget in Danish) and regional elections (regionalvalget), with election day looming six weeks from now on November 16th.

EU, Norwegian and Icelandic citizens over the age of 18 with a permanent address in Denmark are entitled to vote in municipal and regional elections.

Additionally, foreign citizens over 18 who have residency permits and have lived in Denmark for four years or more prior to the date of the election also qualify to take part in the poll.

British citizens who registered as resident in Denmark no later than January 31st, 2020 and have lived in the country continually since then also have the right to vote. UK nationals who registered residence in Denmark after this date (and thereby after the UK left the EU) must fulfil the requirement to have lived in Denmark for at least four years to be able to vote in the local elections.

There are certain exceptions to these rules – people accommodated in deportation centres, sentenced to deportation, or foreign nationals serving prison sentences in Denmark cannot vote.

READ ALSO: Here’s how foreigners can vote in Denmark’s municipal and regional elections (2017)

Voting takes place within the municipality in which the voter’s address is registered, but Denmark also allows voters to submit their ballots by post (brevstemme). Postal voting opened on October 5th, exactly six weeks before election day.

How do I vote by letter?

Before going any further, it should be noted that the term ‘postal voting’ in the Danish system is something of a misnomer because it does not involve actually putting a ballot in the post. But it should be almost as convenient for most people.

All municipalities in Denmark accept postal votes.

It’s also possible to submit a vote on more than one occasion if you change your mind about your vote. The most recent vote you send in will be the one that counts.

Postal voting opens six weeks before the date of the elections, so those wanting to vote by post in the November 16th elections can already do so at the time of writing. The latest possible date for postal voting is November 12th, the Friday before election day.

Postal votes can be given at certain citizens’ facilities such as municipal citizens’ service centres (borgerservicecentre) or, in some municipalities, at libraries or mobile postal voting locations. You can find out where these places are via your local municipality’s website.

To vote at these places, you simply need to go in person with your ID (passport or driving licence, yellow health insurance card). You don’t need a voting card – these are only used at polling stations on election day. A member of staff at the voting location will then guide you through the process.

Those wishing to send a postal vote from their own home (for example due to illness or restricted mobility) must apply to do so between October 19th and November 4th. Applications must be sent to local municipalities and can be found (in Danish) here or via the interior ministry website.

If the municipality approves your application, it will assign two authorised persons to come to your home with election ballots, which you can then submit.

Voting from abroad

If you find yourself out of the country on or prior to election day, you can vote at any Danish embassy or consulate.

In this situation, contact the relevant embassy or consulate for information.

You can also vote by post in Greenland or the Faroe Islands.

Unlike postal voting in Denmark, there is no early deadline for submitting postal votes from abroad. However, your vote must reach your home municipality by 8am on election day, so it’s a good idea to submit it in plenty of time.

What if I want to vote in person?

This is of course also an option for eligible foreign residents.

Voters with a registered Danish address should have received a voting card (valgkort) by post by election day. That card should be taken along to your local polling station when you go to vote.

The address of your nearest polling station (valgsted) will be written on your voting card. Alternatively, it can be found by entering your own address on the website of your local municipality. It’s important to note that you have to vote at the polling station you are assigned unless you are unable to get there due to, for example, access problems or a disability, in which case you can apply to your municipality to change location. The application form can be found (in Danish) here.

When you present your voting card on arrival at the polling station you will be issued with two ballot papers (stemmesedler), one for each election. You will then be directed to a voting booth.

If you have not received a voting card or have lost yours, you can be issued with a new one at the polling station if you bring identification – the yellow health insurance card (gule sygesikringsbevis) along with a passport or driving license are the best forms.

What’s the difference between municipalities and regions?

Denmark is organised into 98 different municipalities, for which municipal councils are elected every four years.

The primary task of municipalities is local administration of welfare and social needs. These include employment, integration, culture and leisure, setting up businesses, initiatives for children and young people, social support, health, and city and rural fixtures and fittings.

Candidates from various parliamentary, as well as independents and non-parliamentary, parties represent locally-tailored needs broadly in line with the ideology of the national party they represent. 

As with the municipal elections, regional elections are held every four years with council members elected to the various regions.

The five regions (Greater Copenhagen, Zealand, North Jutland, Central Jutland and South Denmark) each encompass a larger number of municipalities. The regions are primarily concerned with administration of health care, welfare and social development.

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