Methodology for calculating turnout will change from the Riigikogu elections


Previously, when calculating the voter turnout, only those citizens permanently residing abroad who voted were taken into account. Thanks to the electronic list of voters, where all voters are registered, all voters will be included in the calculation of voter turnout in the 2023 Riigikogu elections. This means that the turnout figure is likely to fall.

1. How are the records of voters kept?

In Estonia, voters are divided between 12 electoral districts. This is done on the basis of their residential addresses in the Population Register.

According to the Constitution, all citizens of Estonia have the right to vote. This also includes the citizens who permanently reside abroad. The Constitution and the Riigikogu Election Act do not restrict in any way the right of the citizens of Estonia permanently residing abroad to participate in the Riigikogu elections.

Voters permanently residing abroad are listed in the population register with the address in a foreign state.

The electoral district of a voter permanently residing abroad is determined on the basis of their last place of residence in Estonia, or, in its absence, on the basis of the voter’s parents’ or grandparents’ last place of residence in Estonia.

Voters permanently residing abroad are required to have a designated electoral district. If they do not belong to any electoral district, they are not in the list of voters.

For the distribution of mandates, the Ministry of the Interior issues the numbers of voters residing in Estonia and abroad separately:

1) the number of voters in each electoral district on the basis of Estonian addresses;

2) the number of voters permanently residing abroad for each electoral district (on the basis of the electoral districts of voters entered in the register).

2. How is voter turnout calculated in Estonia?

Historically, turnout has been shown based on voters living in Estonia. This is so because although the number of voters residing abroad is large (in the order of 1 electoral district), they have not participated in elections. For example, in the 2003 Riigikogu elections, only 1915 voters permanently residing abroad voted. This was the lowest point, and since then the turnout of voters residing abroad has started to increase. One of the reasons is certainly the introduction of electronic voting. Previously, voters had to go to an embassy of Estonia to vote, or apply to vote by post.

Therefore, the State Electoral Office has published the turnout data on voters living and voting abroad separately. The statistics can be found here:

3. What will change in registration of voters at 2023 Riigikogu elections?

Until 2021, each voter in Estonia was registered in the list of voters of one specific electoral district. Voters residing abroad were entered on a separate list of voters permanently residing abroad.

At the 2021 local elections, an electronic list of voters was introduced for the first time. The list of voters is now in a computer and not on paper.

In the Riigikogu elections, this means that both voters residing in Estonia and voters residing abroad are now on the same list of voters. Also, if a voter residing abroad happens to be in Estonia during the election week, they will be able to vote here at a polling place in the traditional way. 

A common list of voters in turn means that the calculation of voter turnout automatically changes. This means that voter turnout will now be calculated on the basis of the total number of voters entered in the list (Estonian voters + voters permanently residing abroad), not just on the basis of voters residing in Estonia.