The race against the clock to organise France's snap elections

France © Jérémy PAOLONI / AFP
© Jérémy PAOLONI / AFP

When President Emmanuel Macron unexpectedly triggered parliamentary elections earlier this month, he left officials just 20 days to organise a first round of voting. From printing ballots to fitting around summer holiday plans, the breakneck campaign poses a massive logistical challenge.

Louis Guerrero, director of the Jasson Taboureau printing company in Ecquevilly, west of Paris, began getting calls as soon as Macron announced the polls two weeks ago. 

It was a Sunday evening, but that did not stop candidates inquiring how soon the company could have their campaign materials ready. 

"The first difficulty was getting enough paper for the documents," Guerrero says. 

"The biggest difficulty was the time we have to print them all. It's the first time we've had less than 48 hours."

French election rules mean that candidates' campaign flyers must first go to local authorities, who check the material and prepare it to be mailed out.

They had to receive it by the evening of 18 June, 48 hours after the deadline for candidates to register and 24 hours after the campaign officially kicked off.

Round the clock

Guerrero's printing presses were turning non-stop to produce ballot papers. 

"We're at 10,800 sheets an hour, that makes 40,000 documents per hour," he told RFI on a recent tour of the printing plant. "That's not bad."

With the presses running through the night, even the company's accountant had been called in to pack freshly cut papers into boxes.

"We're crossing our fingers there aren't any hiccups," Guerrero said.

Printers are not the only ones scrambling to make the snap polls happen.

Mailing companies hired by local authorities have until 26 June, to collate campaign materials, stuff envelopes and pack up election documents to go to polling stations.

Then the French postal service must make sure some 49.5 million registered voters receive the packs ahead of the first round of voting on 30 June.

Materials for the second round on 7 July must be dispatched by midnight on 4 July.

Holiday clash

The elections come at the start of France's holiday season, with schools closing for the summer on 5 July, which poses a problem not only for organisers, who risk finding themselves short-staffed, but for voters.

France does not allow postal votes, which means the only alternative for those who cannot make it to a polling station on election day is to vote by proxy.

The Interior Ministry registered more than 16,000 applications for proxy votes on 10 June alone, the day after Macron announced the polls.

Over 500,000 more have been received since then, five times the number recorded ahead of the last parliamentary elections in June 2022.

"The 30th isn't a problem, but the 7th is school holidays," voter Morgane told RFI as she applied for her proxy ballot at a police station in Issy-les-Moulineaux, a south-west suburb of Paris.

"I won't be able to vote in person but my husband will, so we worked it out between us."

For those without a stand-in, non-profit organisation A Voté ("Has Voted") is inviting people to find their proxy via its "democratic dating site" Plan Procu, which matches absentee voters with willing volunteers in their area.

RFI's Sylvie Koffi and Camille Hurcy contributed reporting to this story.

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Started: 02-07-2024 | Ends: 31-10-2024