French village’s votes cancelled after candidate’s polling station film

The votes of everyone in one French village have been cancelled after a presidential candidate filmed himself in the polling station and published the video on social media - an act strictly forbidden by France's electoral laws.

French village's votes cancelled after candidate's polling station film
Jean Lassalle at a polling station in Lourdios-Icheres, south-western France. He pocked the ballot instead of putting it in the ballot box. Photo by GAIZKA IROZ / AFP

Jean Lassalle stood in the French presidential election on a ruralist platform, but was knocked out in the first round, receiving 3.13 percent of the vote.

When the time came to vote in the second round – choosing between Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen – he opted to abstain.

However, instead of simply staying at home he went along to the polling station in his home village of Lourdios-Ichère, close to the Spanish border, and filmed a short video stating that he was not voting – ending him with slipping his ballot paper into his pocket rather than putting it in the ballot box.

Unfortunately this contravenes France’s strict electoral laws, which prohibit “the dissemination of electoral propaganda messages” on either polling day or the day before.

France’s Constitutional Council decided that he had broken this rule and also “undermined the respect due to the dignity of the electoral operations in which he participated as a candidate in the first round”.

The Council has therefore annulled all the votes cast in Lourdios-Ichère.

Lassalle also faces possible criminal charges for breaking election law.

He has justified his actions by saying there were no voters in the polling station when he filmed his video, but has promised an apology to the villagers’ whose votes have been cancelled.

Although the results of the presidential election were formally announced by the Interior Ministry in the early hours of Monday, the Constitutional Council then reviews the election, takes reports for its delegates at polling stations and deals with any complaints and disputes over voting.

It will then publish a revised voting total – minus the votes of the villagers of Lourdois-Ichère and any other polling station where irregularities have occurred.

With Macron winning by 58.55 percent to Le Pen’s 41.45 percent, the votes of the 136 inhabitants of Lourdios-Ichère are unlikely to affect the overall result. 

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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.