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The right to vote abroad


Act 20748 of 2014, which amended the Constitution of Chile, set down the right of Chileans abroad to vote.

This right is regulated by Act 20960 of October 18, 2016, which regulates the right of suffrage while abroad.  It amended Act 18556 of 1986, the Constitutional Organic Law on the Election Registration System and Election Service.

Creation of a new election register for foreigners

Sixty days prior to an election or plebiscite, the Election Service will open two final election registers, one for voters who vote in Chile and another for voters voting abroad.  A new register will therefore be designed for citizens voting abroad.  Voters may only be registered in one of the two registers.

Chileans who are abroad and are registered in the foreign voting register may only vote in:  (i) presidential primaries; (ii) presidential elections; and (iii) national plebiscites.

Requirements to vote abroad

Chileans abroad may vote in the 2017 presidential elections, including the primaries to be held that same year.  They may also vote in the next national plebiscite.

To vote, Chilean citizens residing abroad must register at the nearest Chilean consulate and swear under oath that their election address is either in Chile or abroad.

Citizens who declare that their election address is abroad must provide an e-mail address, which will be the preferred means to receive notices from the Election Service.  Otherwise, they must provide a postal address.  Their statement will be null and void if they do not provide this information.  The election address of voters who are abroad is the address outside of Chile declared by the voter.  Each consulate must, by informational e-mails or other medium, inform voters of the characteristics of ballots and of the different ways to exercise their right to vote.

Consulate is defined in this law as consular offices, including consular departments in a diplomatic mission headed by a member of the Foreign Service staff of the Ministry of Foreign Relations appointed to perform consular duties.

Change in address

All Chileans who change their election address to Chile must report this change directly at one of the offices of the Election Service throughout the nation or at the National Immigration Office or the International Police Department of the Investigative Police Authority of Chile.

Citizens who move to abroad must change their Chilean election address to their new foreign address at the nearest consulate.

Place and time to vote abroad

Voting will take place preferably at the consulates, which must be easily accessible.  Each consulate must have at least one voting location.  Voting abroad will take place the same day as the election or plebiscite in Chile, during authorized times.

Voting will be done at polling tables, each of which will manned by three poll helpers chosen from the citizens registered in the foreign voting register who are also on the list for the respective table.

The names of poll helpers abroad will be drawn from lots by the respective election boards.  The poll helpers chosen for a presidential election must also work if there is a run-off election.

Poll helpers abroad may be excused from manning tables within 3 business days after the certificate of appointment has been published, for the reasons allowed in Article 44 of Act 18700 of 1988, the Constitutional Organic Law on Popular Voting and Vote Counting.

Prohibition for consuls, ambassadors and other officers

Ambassadors, consuls and all staff officers of the Foreign Service, secretaries and general administrative staff, attachés and officers of the services forming a part of the Ministry of Foreign Relations who work abroad, as well as local employees of Chilean embassies and consulates, may not by any means, be it written, audiovisual, electronic or through images, hold, conduct or participate in public events or demonstrations during election campaigns that promote or oppose a nomination, candidate or position on a plebiscite.  They may, however, disseminate election information according to instructions from the Election Service.