Like the presidential elections, the regional and départment elections involve two rounds. Faced with a continued health crisis caused by the coronavirus, the French government has decided to push them back by three months, and the country will head to the polls on June 13th and 20th, 2021.
A law passed by the French Parliament earlier in February extended the mandate of councillors and deputies who were elected in 2015 until June.
Marlène Schiappa, the Minister Delegate in charge of Citizenship, told the Parliament: “If we need to push back the polls again, which I repeat that the government does not want to do, Parliament will have to pass a new law.”
Guided by the analysis of a scientific committee, the government will submit a report to parliament by April 1st about “the state of the Covid-19 epidemic, the health risks to take into account and the necessary changes to the way in which polls and the electoral campaigns ahead of them will take place.”
There are 14 regional councils, as well as the assemblies of Corsica and the overseas départments of French Guiana, Martinique and Mayotte.
Each council manages regional affairs like economic development, regional rail and road networks, education and the environment.
The 95 départment councils are smaller in scale and they manage more local affairs, such as providing social support, managing local roads and transport networks and promoting culture, local development and tourism.
The law also changes the way in which voters will cast their ballots.
The government will provide protective equipment at each voting station and voters can use one machine to cast both their départment and regional votes, one official can preside over both voting stations if they are in the same place and each voter can have two proxies instead of one.
The new law will also change the electoral campaign: it will be extended from 12 to 19 days and, among other changes, candidates can put in place a free hotline, allowing voters to find out more about their policies.
Last year, the government faced criticism when it held the first round of voting for its municipal elections in March, a day after ordering all non-essential businesses to close because of the pandemic.
The government then pushed back the second round of voting to June 2020.