Voting method - Portugal

Voting method
Personal Postal

Constitution (7th revision, 2005)

Article 121: 1. The President of the Republic is elected by the universal, direct and secret suffrage of Portuguese citizens who are registered to vote in Portuguese territory and, in accordance with the following paragraph, of Portuguese citizens who reside abroad.

2. The law shall regulate the right to vote of Portuguese citizens who reside abroad, to which end it must pay due regard to the existence of ties that effectively link them to the Portuguese community.

Article 115:12. Citizens who reside abroad and are properly registered to vote under the provisions of Article 121(2) shall be called upon to take part in referenda that address matters which specifically also concern them.

Article 115:12. Citizens who reside abroad and are properly registered to vote under the provisions of Article 121(2) shall be called upon to take part in referenda that address matters which specifically also concern them.

Portugal, LEI ELEITORAL da ASSEMBLEIA DA REPÚBLICA (14/79 of 16 May 1979, last amended in 2020), [Portuguese], accessed 28 January 2022

Artigo 79.º-E Modo de exercício do direito de voto antecipado por eleitores deslocados no estrangeiro

1 — Os eleitores que se encontrem nas condições previstas no n.º 2 do artigo 79.º-B podem exercer o direito de sufrágio entre o décimo segundo e o décimo dias anteriores ao da eleição, junto das representações diplomáticas, consulares ou nas delegações externas das instituições públicas portuguesas previamente definidas pelo Ministério dos Negócios Estrangeiros, nos termos estabelecidos nos n.os 7 a 14 do artigo 79.º-C.

2 — As funções previstas nos n.os 8 a 13 do artigo 79.º-C são asseguradas por funcionário diplomático designado para o efeito, a quem cabe remeter a correspondência eleitoral pela via mais expedita à junta de freguesia respetiva.

3 — No caso dos eleitores referidos na alínea a) do n.º 2 do artigo 79.º-B, se o Ministério dos Negócios Estrangeiros reconhecer a impossibilidade da sua deslocação aos locais referidos no n. 1, designa um funcionário diplomático, que procede à recolha da correspondência eleitoral, no período ali referido.

4 — As operações eleitorais previstas nos números anteriores podem ser fiscalizadas pelas listas que nomeiem delegados até ao décimo sexto dia anterior ao da eleição.

Legal Regime governing Referenda (Law no. 15-A/98 of 3 April 1998, last amended by Organic Law no. 3/2017 of 18 July 2017)

Article 37:2 When a referendum addresses a matter that also specifically concerns them, citizens who reside abroad and are properly registered on the electoral roll under the provisions of Article 121(2) of the Constitution shall also be called upon to participate.

Article 128:2 When the electors referred to in subparagraphs a), b) and g) of the previous paragraph are away abroad between the twelfth day before that of the referendum and that on which the referendum is held, they may exercise the right to vote at the diplomatic or consular representations or the foreign delegations of the Portuguese ministries and public institutions defined in advance by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in accordance with Article 130-A.

Legislative Initiative by Citizens (Law no. 17/2003 of 4 June 2003, last amended by Law no. 52/2017 of 13 July 2017)

Article 2: Citizens who are definitively registered on the electoral roll in Portuguese territory or abroad are holders of the right to initiate legislation.

For extended review of external voting developments in Portugal refer to ​Voting from Abroad: The International IDEA Handbook 2007 (pages 83-87)

“More recently, 1997 marked a major change in the process of external voting in Portugal. The constitution was revised for the fourth time, and one of the specific topics for reform was the rules governing elections. Only minor changes were introduced, but in this constitutional package, agreed by the two major parties, the centre–left Socialist Party (Partido Socialista, PS) and the centre–right Social Democratic Party (Partido Social Democrata, PSD), Portuguese citizens resident abroad became eligible to vote in both presidential elections and national referendums as well as legislative elections. This had been promoted in particular by the PSD in the constitutional negotiations. (The experience of legislative elections since 1976 had shown that the PSD has consistently had a majority of votes among external voters, which helps to explain why that party lobbied for an extension of emigrants’ voting rights.)

These changes equalized the electoral rights of Portuguese citizens inside and outside Portugal for all national-level elections, although external voting was not extended to local elections. Portuguese citizens with external voting rights were first able to exercise their right to vote for the president of the republic in 2001.” [...]  

Decree-Law no. 95-C/76 of 30 January 1976 sets out the procedural aspects of external voting in legislative elections. In these elections, as well as in European Parliament elections, the external voting right is exercised by post.  [...]

For elections to the national parliament and the European Parliament (from 1987 to 2004), the Ministry of Internal Administration in Portugal sends a ballot paper with two envelopes to all citizens registered in electoral registers abroad around two to three weeks before polling day. The voter fills in his or her ballot paper, folds it and inserts it in one of the envelopes which he or she then seals and places in the other envelope together with a photocopy of his orher elector’s card. All must be sent back to the designated reception point in Portugal and can be posted up until (and including) the day of the election. Ten days following the election, the external ballot papers are opened and counted. In legislative elections, the four parliamentary seats reserved for external voters are then allocated. In European Parliament elections, the external votes are added to the internal national totals (Decree-Law no.95C/76).

In presidential elections and referendums, Portuguese residents abroad have to vote in person. In these cases, external voting takes place over a period of three days up to and including election day. Registered electors can go to the voting centre closest to their place of residence to cast their vote, which is then opened and counted. [...]

The constitutional revision of 1997 introduced a number of modifications to the referendum law. It allows Portuguese nationals resident abroad to vote in referendums, provided they are correctly registered, whenever the referendum deals with issues that concern them specifically. This last provision is ambiguous and lends itself to significant political argument about whether in any given referendum Portuguese citizens resident abroad may or may not vote. In practice, there have been two referendums in Portugal: one in 1998 on abortion and another in 1999 on the issue of regionalization. In both instances, following Constitutional Court rulings (Ruling 288/98 and Ruling 532/98), external voting was not allowed.