Greece, with slow but steady steps, is improving the law regarding the voting rights of expatriates, making it increasingly easier for us to participate in Greek elections. Recently, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced that starting from the next European elections, on June 9, 2024, our participation through postal voting will be possible (the same will apply to Greeks living inside the country). This is a significant step in the right direction.
This measure is not the equivalent of reinventing the wheel. Its logic is self-evident and has been in place abroad for a long time – for instance, in the United States since the 19th century (first in Vermont in 1896).
And thanks to the current government, it will now be implemented in Greece as well. This measure is self-evident because if you genuinely desire the maximum participation of those entitled to vote, if you see the vote as the fundamental tool of the functioning of democracy, if you want the citizens farthest from urban centers to vote, then you must remove the obstacles that prevent the exercise of this right.
This applies to Greeks in Greece who are forced to travel back to their respective electoral districts, for example, from Athens to my native island of Limnos, in order to vote. And because this entails both time and money, many do not vote. And if this is a concern within geographically small Greece, it matters a hundredfold for the vast American continent, Canada, Australia, and almost everywhere outside Greece.
We endeavored, when I was Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Responsible for Hellenes Abroad, working with the then-Minister of the Interior Takis Theodorikakos, to persuade the team working on the initial law that postal voting is a necessary precondition – but we were unsuccessful, because the official opposition party SYRIZA did not agree. And given the constitutional requirements and the distribution of seats in the Parliament at that time, their support was necessary.
But under the new circumstances, Hellenes abroad – for example, on the tip of Long Island or in the states of Vermont, Ohio, Arizona, or Colorado – will not need to travel for hours to vote at the nearest Greek consulate or other voting site. They will be able to vote from their homes, just as they do in American elections when they travel and cannot vote in person.
It seems like a small change, but it is a revolutionary development. However, I would like to address a word of caution to those working on the law: I am concerned that based on what I am reading, it is becoming excessively complicated – too many details, too much bureaucracy. I fully understand and agree with the desire to ensure privacy and the security of the process. Still, do not overcomplicate it. Only what is necessary. The Greeks abroad often do not have the requisite computer knowledge, nor sometimes the willingness to spend hours understanding how to vote.
And definitely, establish a helpline in Greece, for example, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with 2-3 staff members who speak the most common languages to assist voters in completing the ballot.
Fellow compatriots, Greece has now demonstrated its concrete interest, its desire to integrate us into its broader governing and cultural framework in numerous ways. Recently, the government sounded the alarm – through the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Alexandra Papadopoulou, a former ambassador to Washington who is among Greece’s best diplomats and a staunch supporter of the Omogenia – to the Patriarch regarding the course of Archbishop Elpidophoros.
Now, the government has given us the opportunity to vote by postal ballot. Kyriakos Mitsotakis is doing what no one before him has done, no matter how self-evident it may have been. Now it is our turn to respond.