Concern Over Inadequate Voting Arrangement For Conscripts

Conscripts' Union proposes a simple workaround, to allow polling stations to be set up on military bases.

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File photo showing Finnish soldier / Credit: Defence Command

The Finnish Conscripts’ Union Varusmiesliitto says it is concerned about access to vote, for thousands of conscripts currently doing their basic military training.

Under Finnish law, polling stations must be open to everyone.  But if there was a polling place on a military base, the general public might not be allowed to have access.

That means many conscripts won’t get the chance to vote in the presidential election.

The issue becomes important during the advance voting period, which runs from 17th January to 20th January, as conscripts are unlikely to be given permission to leave garrison during polling hours.

“The problem is that the current laws state that polling stations must be open for everybody. Since only a few canteens [on military bases] are open to the public, most of them aren’t eligible for hosting a polling station” explains Jaakko Kivistö from Varusmiesliitto.

“Yet, hospitals and prisons, for example, have been granted a special permission to host a polling station” he adds.

Many – but not all – conscripts get the chance to leave their garrison during the weekend which could allow them to vote on election day Sunday 28th January. However, if there are exercises scheduled that same weekend, a conscript simply wouldn’t be able to vote.

According to Statistics Finland, at the last municipal elections in spring 2017, 18-24 year olds in the armed forces had one of the lowest turnouts of any group.

Although Varusmiesliitto concedes that it would take time for the Defence Command to figure out an exemption similar to hospitals and prisons, so that polling places could be set up on military bases, they think it should be possible.

“In our opinion, conscripts should be given the opportunity to vote in garrisons” states Kivistö.