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Finland starts casting early votes, sometimes drive-in style

Some voters won't need to leave their cars to cast their ballots in this year's local elections.

Kuntavaalien drive in -äänestyspaikka Töölön kisahallin Mäntymäen kentällä.
Voters drive up to cast their ballot behind the Kisahalli sports facility in Helsinki's Töölö district. Image: Kristiina Lehto / Yle

Early voting in municipal elections began on Wednesday. In an effort to maintain social distance, Finland is experimenting with drive-in style voting.

"This is really exceptional and new. If there's need and demand for drive-in voting, then we can probably organise it for future elections, too," Juha Viertola (NCP) of Helsinki’s central election committee told Yle.

The drive-in voting has been modelled after Covid drive-through testing stations. People planning to vote in their own car should mask up and bring their own pen, according to officials.

"You drive up and an election worker checks your identity. The voter fills the ballot in the car and seals it in an envelope to safeguard voting secrecy," Viertola explained.

Justice Ministry election director Arto Jääskeläinen said about a dozen drive-in polling stations have been set up for the municipal elections.

A Helsinki resident who wished to be identified as Mikko told Yle that voting by car didn’t feel much different from voting in a booth.

"Now I’ve taken care of it, and I think it worked really well," he said after casting a drive-in ballot in Helsinki’s Töölö district on Wednesday.

In the capital, drive-in voting is available on the former runway of Malmi airport and in the parking lot behind the Kisahalli sports facility off Mannerheimintie.

It is also possible to arrive at drive-in voting centres by foot or bicycle, as these polling stations also house traditional voting booths.

Other cities are also looking for ways to keep voters appropriately distanced while casting ballots.

Tampere is not offering drive-through voting, though some polling stations are located outdoors.

In Mikkeli, officials have set up a voting tent on the city’s main square. The South Savo region has repurposed a library bus as a mobile polling station outfitted with two voting booths.

Election officials in the capital said they hoped voters would determine their candidate of choice before arriving at polling stations to help avoid queues.

Election day is Sunday, 13 June.

Check out whether you can vote at canivote. We have compiled a really simple guide to Finland’s local elections, and you can also check out our election compass in English here.

Yle News' interviews with political party leaders in the run-up to the elections are available on the All Points North podcast on Yle Areena.

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