Can you really vote twice? Proxy votes in France

Billet publié le 19/02/2014

Here is the companion piece to my blog post on The Monkey Cage (thanks Erik!). You can also see Arthur Charpentier’s companion piece.

France does not allow for early voting nor mail-in voting. If you want to vote, you have to go to the ballot box, or vote by proxy. Proxy voting is now easier than before, but one still has to go to the police, the gendarmerie or to a local tribunal to officialize the proxy. And one has to sign “sur l’honneur” that going to the ballot box on the day of the election is impossible. Another condition : The proxy voter needs to be registered to vote in the same city.
I was surprised to realize that French political scientists never studied proxy voting (it has been extensively studied by legal scholars of electoral fraud). Until a few years ago, it was indeed a rounding error in ballot box results, but that is not the case anymore. And to be brief, proxy voting seems to be a way for the politically active to vote when they can not physically vote. With two colleagues, Arthur Charpentier and Joël Gombin, we have begun to explore the social and political logics of the “procuration” — as proxy voting is known in France. We focused our inquiry, at first, at the polling station level (bureaux de vote) : it is a very small geographical unit of around 1000 voters, and in many cities it should be somewhat homogeneous (at least with a smaller variance than bigger geographical units).
We focused on polling stations data because the “electoral participation surveys” of the INSEE (the French National Statistical Institute) did not gather information about “proxy votes” (they were considered to be too few).

For a few years now, the main French cities have put some data online. And in a few cases, we have data about proxy votes :

  1. Montpellier : Electoral results (1994-2012), and the shapefile of the Bureaux de vote for 2012.
  2. Nantes : electoral results (2007 to 2012) and shapefile of the polling stations (for 2012)
  3. Paris : electoral results (2007-2012) But no shapefile here. I have had access to a shapefile created by the Cartelec group
  4. Lyon : It is more complicated here. Data have to be scrapped from the municipal website. The shapefile of the polling station is available. Julien Barnier put on GitHub the code used to gather electoral results

In the working paper published by La Vie des idées, we also used data created by the ANR Cartelec, which recombined data from the French census to fit the geographical units of the polling stations.

Feel free to ask for more information about la procuration en France.

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