Italian citizens residing abroad have the right to vote in Chamber of Deputies and Senate elections, as well as in popular referendums.
When there are political elections, they vote in the “Foreign Constituency” to elect 12 deputies and 6 senators.
The Foreign Constituency is split into four geographic sectors: a) Europe; b) South America; c) Northern and Central America; d) Africa, Asia, Oceania and Antarctica.
The voters elect representatives from the lists presented in the geographic sectors in which they reside. One deputy and one senator are elected in each sector, while the remaining seats are distributed among the sectors in proportion to the number of residents.
All Italian citizens residing abroad and aged 18 (for Chamber of Deputies elections) or 25 (for Senate elections), and who are registered on the electoral lists put together from an updated directory of residents abroad (the result of the merging of municipal AIRE Registries and consular records), have the right to vote.
To assist with the updating of personal information, Law 459 includes the obligation for voters to communicate updated personal information to the Consulate.
The candidates on the electoral lists presented in each geographic sector need to be registered as residents and voters in that sector.
Italian citizens residing abroad register their vote by absentee ballot. Eighteen days or more before the elections, the Consulate sends all voters a package containing their electoral certificate, an electoral ballot or ballots along with a small envelope in which to put them and a large self-addressed and stamped envelope; the lists of the candidates; a sheet explaining how to vote; and the text of Law 459/2001. The voter must send the completed ballots to the Consulate ten days or more before the elections. The Consulate then sees to the rapid delivery of the ballots to Italy so that they can be counted together with the ballots of voters living in Italy.
Any voter who has not received an electoral package at least fourteen days before the date of the elections, can request it by going in person to the local Consulate.
The diplomatic representations establish agreements with the governments of countries where Italian citizens reside in order to guarantee that absentee voting is exercised in conditions of equality, freedom and secrecy; and that no negative consequences can ensue for voters either general and in their workplaces. Italian citizens residing in countries where it was not possible to establish such an agreement can only vote by returning to Italy to do so.
The running of the election campaign will also be regulated by special forms of collaboration with the foreign governments, and differently from what happens in the case of the agreements mentioned above, should it not take place, this will not prevent the exercising by post of voting rights.
Italian citizens resident abroad are not obliged to vote by post. Law 459 lays down that the voter can opt to exercise his right to vote in Italy, by returning to Italy and voting for the candidates standing for the constituency in the relative national section in which the voter is registered.
The voter who intends to return to Italy to vote will have to communicate this fact in writing to their Consulate by the 31st of December of the year preceding the natural expiration of the legislature, or, in the case of an early dissolution of the houses of Parliament, within 10 days from the setting of the election date. This choice is valid for a single election or referendum.
No provisions are made for refunding the travel expenses of those who have opted to vote in Italy.
Voting in Italy remains however the obligatory method of voting for Italian citizens resident in countries with which it has been impossible to establish the aforementioned agreements, as well as for residents in countries whose socio-political situation does not guarantee, even temporarily, the respect of the conditions of such an agreement. In these cases, and moreover, for voters living in countries devoid of Italian diplomatic representations, the right to a 75 per cent refund of travel expenses to cover their trip to Italy, is foreseen. In this case, the voter will have to present the relevant request to their Consulate, as well as their electoral certificate and travel ticket.