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Reader question: Do French voters have to vote in both rounds of the election?

The French two-round election system means that most voters head to the polls twice, but not always.

Reader question: Do French voters have to vote in both rounds of the election?
Scrutineers empty a ballot box ahead of the counting of the vote for the French presidential election first round at a polling station in La Possession on the French Indian ocean island of La Reunion. Photo by Richard BOUHET / AFP

Question: Must a French voter have voted in the first round of the election in order to vote in the second round on April 24th?

In order to vote in French elections you need to fulfil various criteria; be a French citizen, over the age of 18 and be registered on the electoral roll. There is no requirement to have been born French – naturalised citizens can also vote and although the deadline to register to vote in the presidential elections has now passed, there is still time to register for the parliamentary elections in June. 

Once registered, voters go to the polling station for the first round, and again two weeks later to pick between the final two candidates (in the case of the 2022 elections that’s a choice between Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen).

But do you have to vote in both?

No, voters are free to cast their ballots in only the first round or only the second round if they wish. In fact turnout levels are always different between the two rounds – sometimes radically so.

Voters who cast their ballot for a first-round candidate who is eliminated then have to decide which of the two surviving second-round candidates to back. If they don’t like either of them it’s common for people to either abstain or cast a vote blanc.

On the other hand, the prospect of a far-right candidate in the second round may inspire people who didn’t vote in the first round to cast their ballot in the second.

The first round of voting in 2022 saw a low turnout of 73 percent – the lowest for a first round since 2002. Back then, the first round saw a turnout of 71 percent, but after the shock of far-right Jean-Marie Le Pen making it through to the second round, turnout in round two jumped to 79 percent.

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France proposes getting rid of penalties for ‘minor’ speeding offences

The French government is considering changing speeding laws so that drivers will not lose points on their licence if they are caught going just a few kilometres over the speed limit.

France proposes getting rid of penalties for 'minor' speeding offences

France’s Interior Ministry is considering changing its current rules for minor speeding violations – proposing getting rid of the penalty for drivers who only violate the rule by going just a few kilometres over the speed limit.

The Ministry has not laid out a timeline for when this could come into effect, but they said they are currently in the preliminary stages of studying how the change could be carried out.

“The fine of course remains,” said the Interior Ministry to French daily Le Parisien.

That is to say you can still be fined for going five kilometres over the speed limit, but there might not be any more lost points for driving a couple kilometres over the posted limit. 

READ ALSO These are the offences that can cost you points on your driving licence

Of the 13 million speeding tickets issued each year in France, 58 percent are for speeding violations of less than 5 km per hour over the limit, with many coming from automated radar machines.

How does the current rule work?

The rule itself is already a bit flexible, depending on where the speeding violation occurs.

If the violation happens in an urban area or low-speed zone (under 50 km per hour limit), then it is considered a 4th class offence, which involves a fixed fine of €135. Drivers can also lose a point on their licences as a penalty for this offence. 

Whereas, on highways and high-speed roads, the consequences of speeding by 5 km per hour are less severe. The offence is only considered 3rd class, which means the fixed fine is €68. There is still the possibility of losing a point on your licence, however. 

How do people feel about this?

Pierre Chasseray, a representative from the organisation “40 Millions d’Automobilistes,” thinks the government should do away with all penalties for minor speeding offences, including fines. He told French daily Le Parisien that this is only a “first step.”

Meanwhile, others are concerned that the move to get rid of points-deductions could end up encouraging people to speed, as they’ll think there is no longer any consequence.

To avoid being accused of carelessness, France’s Interior Ministry is also promising to become “firmer” with regards to people who use other people’s licences in order to get out of losing points – say by sending their spouse’s or grandmother’s instead of their own after being caught speeding. The Interior Ministry plans to digitalise license and registration in an effort to combat this. 

Ultimately, if you are worried about running out of points on your licence, there are still ways to recover them.

You can recover your points after six months of driving without committing any other offences, and there are also awareness training courses that allow you to gain your points back. It should be noted, however, that these trainings typically cost between €150 and €250, and they do not allow you to regain more than four points.