(May 13, 2021) On May 7, 2021, the Finnish Parliament voted to amend the country’s Election Act to allow military recruits who are completing their mandatory or voluntary military service to vote early at their place of military service (garnisonerna). The amendment does not apply to persons completing civil service in lieu of military service.
The temporary amendment to the Election Act comes on top of the postponement of municipal elections in Finland as a means of slowing the spread of the coronavirus. The municipal elections, which by law should have taken place on April 18, 2021, have been postponed until June 13, 2021, to allow for a greater number of at-risk Finns to be vaccinated ahead of the election.
In a typical municipal election year, persons undergoing military training are encouraged to vote early in a designated early polling station during their leave, and are typically not awarded special leave to vote unless they have otherwise not been afforded the opportunity to vote during the early voting period—for example, if they have not had leave during the early voting period.
In view of the special challenges to the health of military personnel and the public during the COVID-19 pandemic, the amendment will allow for the creation of early polling stations at military garrisons, thereby affording military personnel and recruits a convenient early-voting alternative during a time when travel is discouraged.
The committee that prepared the amendment noted that it is important that no recruit be forced to vote as a result of the amendment. Thus, the temporary rules are intended to facilitate voting for voters who want to vote, not coerce all eligible voters into voting.
The amendment is scheduled to enter into force no later than May 24, 2021, because early voting starts May 26, 2021. The amendment will automatically expire on June 30, 2021.