How to vote in Sweden

How to vote in the Swedish election

3 elections are taking place

Everyone 18 or older, on the Election Day, will be voting in 2 or 3 elections.

The 3 different elections are:

  1. Val till riksdag - general election for the Riksdag, the supreme assembly of politicians in Sweden
  2. Val till landstingsfullmäktige - general election for the county council (Sweden has 20 administrative counties)
  3. Val till kommunfullmäktige - general election for the municipal, or city, council (Sweden is divided into 290 municipalities).

To be fair, a few cities may also have one more election on a local issue on the same day, but let's focus here.

This is what these 3 groups control

  1. The Riksdag is responsible for laws, foreign policy, the country's budget and for examining the work of the government. It has 349 members. The number of people from each political party is determined by the election.
  2. Your county council (landstingsfullmäktige) is responsible primarily for healthcare and public transport in the area you live in.
  3. Your city council (kommunfullmäktige) are local people who make decisions about issues that affect you more directly, for example public schools, elderly care, accessibility, bicycle tracks and infrastructure, housing development, cultural assets and waste management.

You can vote if...

To vote in the general election for [1] riksdagen you must be a Swedish citizen.

For the other two elections, [2] landstingsfullmäktige and [3] kommunfullmäktige, it is enough that you:

  • are a EU-citizen, citizen of Iceland or Norway - and have been registered for population purposes at least 30 days,
  • OR have been registered for population purposes in Sweden three years in succession before Election Day.

What you may or may not need for voting

Three weeks before the election you will get a voting card "röstkort" in the post. This voting card contains information about what building you are supposed to vote in (often this is a school relatively close to your home, a library or the city hall).

There is also info about what elections you can vote in, and the opening hours of the building. You can bring this voting card to the election building but if you forget it, all you really need is identification, such as a Swedish ID card or your passport.

If you do not have any identification document, you can still vote, if someone else with an ID card can confirm that you are who you say you are.

Voting sensibly

Most political parties participate in all 3 different elections but you DO NOT have to vote for the same political party in all 3 different elections. That's why there are 3 different elections. Your decision should be based on the people you think will serve the different areas in a way that is to your liking.

Get the colours right

Each election has a separate colour and a separate envelope that you use for voting.

  1. For "val till riksdagen" the ballot papers are yellow.
  2. For "val till landstingsfullmäktige" the ballot papers are blue
  3. For "val till kommunfullmäktige" the ballot papers are white

Who are all the people?

When you arrive at the building to vote there may be people outside handing out ballot papers. These are usually politicians hoping you will vote for their party. You don't have to talk to them.

Just wave and smile.

If you need help there are people inside the building whose job it is to guide you. For example: if you find yourself in the wrong election building they can help direct you to the right one.

Inside the building

Inside the building you have access to piles of ballot papers for each political party.

There is one room where all the ballot papers are, and usually a separate room further in where you have booths (often green) for privacy when placing your ballot papers in white envelopes.

Understanding the ballot papers

Most ballot papers have a few or many names on them. If you do not want to place your vote on a specific person, you can ignore this.

If you do want to vote for a person, put an X next to that person. You can only do this for ONE person. If there is more than one X on you ballot, the personal vote will not count, but the vote for the party will.

Select your ballot papers

You need a ballot paper for the party you want to vote on, one ballot paper for each election (that means one of each colour).

Remember: Most people take a ballot paper for all the parties with them inside, or at least a big mix, making sure nobody can see who they are voting for.

In Sweden the system makes sure nobody can find out who you vote for, unless you tell someone.

Preparing your actual vote!

Once you are in a voting booth, place one ballot paper each in a separate white envelope and seal them.

Remember, only one ballot paper in each envelope and there should be one of each colour for the elections your are voting in. There is a small opening in the envelope that reveals the colour (and the stripes you may notice).

A word of warning

The ballot must not be folded or torn in any way. If it is, your vote will not count. The only marking allowed is the X you may put next to one person that you would like to vote for.

The final station

Now, walk up to the election staff and hand them your envelopes and show them your identification. Watch as they place each envelope in a box, one for each colour.

Well done!

Now walk outside and compliment yourself on a job well done. Get yourself a treat because you are truly awesome.

Oh, wait, there are a few things you may still want to consider:

No ballots for your party?

The smaller political parties who are not part of government today do not get their ballots distributed by the state, and in some cases there will be no ballot papers present for these parties. If you want to vote for a party without a pre-printed ballot paper, you can still vote for them by doing this:

Take a blank ballot paper, make sure its for the election you want (check the colour), and write the name of the party on that paper. This is the paper you put in the white envelope. Make sure you use the correct spelling and the full name of the party. Bring a cheat note with you if you feel unsure.

Don't trust Donald

A lot of Swedes seem to write Donald Duck on a blank piece of paper. Try to avoid that. Donald Duck has a tendency to make rather poor decisions. He always gets stuck with all the bad luck. But if you really are undecided, you can actually place a blank ballot in the envelope as well - because the important thing is that you do vote.

And since you're still listening, here are some helpful tips in making your big decision:

Vote ahead of time

If you are away on the election day, or for any other reason, you can vote ahead of time. This is called "förtidsröstning".

There are quite a few buildings where you can vote ahead of time, and the important thing is to bring your "röstkort" (voting card) and your identification. Sometimes even just your identification card or passport seems to be enough!

Informed decisions

If you want to read more about what the political parties want and stand for, the keywords to watch out for are "Handlingsplan" and "Valmanifest".

These are documents presenting the visions for the next four years. If you can find them online chances are you can use Google Translate to understand some of the content. The info provided in different languages by the parties themselves is usually not very detailed.

Politicians are people too

When it comes to your local city council, maybe you can even meet up a politician for coffee. Many politicians in Sweden are very easy to get in touch with and if you are a user of social media you can usually ask them questions there as well.

That's it. Really. Now tell your friends and family about this page!

If you need more detailed info, visit Valmyndigheten's website.

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