Between May 23 and 26, the electorate of the EU – including the UK – will head to the polls to elect new Members of European Parliament (MEPs). MEPs are responsible for passing laws affecting the population of the EU, and play a crucial role in shaping the EU and its law in the five-year cycles they hold their seats. These twice-a-decade European elections are the second largest democratic contest in the world, after India’s.
How do these elections work?
The European Parliament is made up of 751 seats in total.
Each of the 28 EU countries is allocated a set number of seats, roughly depending on the size of its population – the UK has 73.
The UK is divided up into 12 regions, each represented by a number of candidates from political parties or standing independently.
The number of candidates per region depends on the population of the region – for example, the north-east of England has three MEPs while London has eight as the population is bigger.
You can find a list of your candidates in the UK at the end of this article.
MEPs are elected using the d’Hondt method of proportional representation, which sees seats awarded to parties in proportion to the number of votes they win.
Once in the European Parliament, MEPs sit in one of eight political alliances within the Parliament, aligned with those who share a similar political affiliation.
How to cast your vote
When you vote, you’ll get a ballot paper with the names of different parties and their logos.
You can put a cross against one of those parties.
You’ll also see a list of candidates to be MEPs next to each party’s name on the ballot, in order from number one down.
If the party wins a seat, their top name takes it, and so on down the list.
You cannot change the order of this, or vote for specific candidates.
The party decides on the candidate order, you decide on the party.
You can find out more about how to cast your vote in the UK HERE.
When will results be announced?
Elections are scheduled for May 23 to 26 – with the UK voting on May 23.
Results will be available from all 28 EU countries on the night of Sunday, May 26, after all the member states have voted.
Voting dates by country:
May 23: Netherlands, UK
May 24: Ireland, Czech Republic (which has two-day voting also on 25 May)
May 25: Latvia, Malta, Slovakia
May 26: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden
How do all the countries vote?
Used by: UK (except Northern Ireland), Portugal, Spain, France, Germany, Romania, Hungary
Used by: Finland, Sweden, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Greece, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Poland, Italy, Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark
Single Transferable Vote:
Used by: Ireland, Malta, Northern Ireland
How will the EU elections affect you?
The laws made and passed by MEPs affect many facets of everyday life in the EU.
The European Parliament “co-decides” laws on the EU single market, farming, fisheries, energy, environment, data protection, migration and dozens of other policy areas.
The parliament is excluded from some decisions: EU governments are in charge of their powers on EU tax and foreign policy.
The website for the European Parliament defines some of the laws MEPs are responsible for as:
> How many hours employees throughout the EU can be required to work and how much rest and holiday they must be given
> Which pesticides are safe to use on the food grown in the EU
> How much you pay for mobile phone calls when you go to another EU country
> How to use and label Genetically Modified Organisms
> Making children’s toys safe
> The safety of thousands of chemicals used in everyday manufactured goods such as TVs and sofas
> Cleaning up the air we breathe and the water we drink and swim in
> Getting health care in another EU country either on holiday or when the queue is too long in your own country
> Making it easier to study at university in another EU country.