Who can vote in Italy?
For the upcoming election in September, the answer is simple: only Italian citizens are eligible to vote in Italy’s general elections.
Foreign EU nationals who are resident in Italy can register to vote in municipal and European parliamentary elections, but national elections are reserved for Italians only.
Until recently, not even all Italian adults could participate fully in the process: just last year, voters needed to be over the age of 25 to take part in senate elections.
That finally changed with a reform passed by parliament in July 2021. It’s now the case that any citizen over the age of 18 can vote for their representatives in both the lower house and the senate (both ballots are held at the same time).
You don’t need to be resident in Italy to vote; Italian citizens living abroad can register to vote via post.
In fact, Italy is unusual in assigning a set number of MPs and senators to ‘overseas constituencies’ that represent the interests of Italians abroad.
These constituencies are split into four territories: a) Europe; b) South America; c) Northern and Central America; d) Africa, Asia, Oceania and Antarctica. Each zone gets at least one MP and one senator, with the others distributed in proportion to the number of Italian residents.
Up until recently, there were as many as 12 MPs and six senators dedicated to overseas constituencies. This will drop to eight MPs and four senators from September, thanks to another reform enacted in late 2020.
How can you vote?
While Italy has a postal vote option for citizens living abroad, Italians resident in Italy must vote in the town in which they are registered to vote (i.e., their comune, or municipality of residency), at the specific polling station assigned to them.
The lack of a postal vote for Italians in Italy is thought to be one of the main factors behind Italy’s declining turnout in elections, and a parliamentary committee on elections has advised introducing one to help remedy the situation; but for now, only in-person votes count.
Italians living abroad who are on the electoral register should receive their ballot papers (pink for the Chamber of Deputies, yellow for the senate) from their consulate in the lead up to the election. Their completed ballots must arrive back at the consulate no later than 4pm local time on September 22nd.
Those who haven’t received their ballot papers by September 11th should contact their consulate to request that the documents be resent.
Italians in Italy must have a tessera elettorale, or voter’s card, to be allowed to vote in person. The card contains the holder’s full name, date of birth, address and polling station. Every time the holder goes to vote, the card – which takes the form of a piece of reinforced folded paper – is stamped.
The tessera elettorale should be automatically sent out to Italians at their home address when they reach the age of 18; for those who acquire citizenship and move to Italy later in life, it should be automatically sent to their address by the comune where they are registered as a resident.
If the tessera gets lost, damaged, or becomes filled up with stamps, the holder should request a new card from their comune.
When an individual moves towns, they should turn in their tessera in order to receive a new one from their new comune. For those who move house but stay in the same town, their comune should send an official slip confirming the new address that can be used to update their tessera.
Anyone who hasn’t automatically received a tessera elettorale and is entitled to one should contact their comune to claim theirs.