The first round of the French presidential election takes place April 10 2022. The second round, between the top 2 finishers from the first round, April 24.
What follows is a translation of French electoral law by Jeremie Masseloux. This is as it existed in 2019.
This link gets you to the French legal code, as it exists today (scroll down to article 42.)
Procédures électorales françaises
Democracy advocates who are knowledgeable about how the US conducts elections will see some significant differences.
This is a good summary of what the law says.
“Fonctionnement d’un bureau de vote” (How a polling place works)
A “proces-verbal” is a written record.
A “commune” is a level of administrative division, translates somewhat as an incorporated municipality or district for which electors are specifically registered to
Section 2: Voting Operations
Each polling station is composed of a president, at least two assessors, and a secretary chosen by them from the voters of the designated “commune”
During the polling station’s deliberations, the secretary may only consult with the other station operatives.
At least two members of the polling station must always be present throughout the entirety of the election process.
The active president, assessors, and secretary of any one polling station are not permitted work at or alternate for any other polling station.
The polling stations are overseen by the Mayor, deputies, and councilors in accordance to “l’ordre du tableau”
[“l’ordre du tableau” is a suggested hierarchy for government workers; the order dictates that those with a higher position of power are first selected in which ever process.]
In their absence, the presidents are appointed by the Mayor as deemed by the electors of the “commune.” In the case of an absence, the respective president is replaced by an alternate of their choosing within the councilers or electors of their “commune,” or, should that fail, by the oldest of the assessors. The alternate can exercise all the powers of the president. In the case of an absence, the secretary is replaced by the youngest of the assessors.
The assessors of each polling station with the following provisions:
Every candidate, pair of candidates, or each “list” present has the right to appoint a single assessor among the electors of the department.
Additional assessors may be appointed by the mayor from among the municipal councilors in “l’ordre du tableau”
On polling day, if, for any reason, the number of assessors is less than two, the missing assessor(s) are selected from any electors present able to read and write in French, and in the following order of priority: The oldest elector, followed by the youngest elector
The assessors are not paid
Every candidate, pair of candidates, or each list present that is entitled to appoint an assessor, may appoint an alternate chosen from among the electors of the department.
Each municipal councilor may also appoint an alternate, either among the other municipal councilors or among the electors of the “commune”
The alternates are to faithfully exercise all responsibilities of the assessors when they replace them. However, they may not replace an assessor throughout the vote count, nor during the signing of the electoral operation’s “proces-verbal”
The last names, first names, date and place of birth, and address of each assessors and their alternates as approved by the candidates, pairs of candidates, or “lists” present, along with an indication of their assigned polling station, shall be notified to the mayor no later than ten o’clock (a.m) three days before polling day.
The mayor issues a receipt of this declaration. This receipt will serve as both a title and guarantee of their rights for the newfound status of the assessors or their alternates.
They mayor will disclose the surname, first name, date and place of birth, and address of the assessors or their designated alternates to the president of each polling station concerned, prior to the constitution of those respective stations.
All discussions and all deliberations by the electors inside the polling stations are prohibited.
The president of the polling station alone can enact the police of the assembly
No armed forces, without (the president’s) authorization may be present within or nearby the voting area.
The civil authorities and the military commanders are required to submit to their requisitions (designated assignment/order)
A requisition order made by the president of the polling station cannot serve the purpose of preventing any candidates or their delegates from exercising control over the electoral operations or any prerogative subject to the laws and regulations (of the electoral process)
In the case of any disorder caused by a delegate, or any flagrant act justifying for their arrest, an alternate delegate may replace them. Under no circumstances will the voting operations be interrupted
When a requisition order has resulted in the expulsion of one or more assessors, one or more delegates, or one or more voters, the president is thereby obligated, before the order is lifted and the residing authority has left the polling station, to proceed with the replacement of the expulsed, without delay and in accordance to the laws and regulations enforced.
The authority figure who, at the request of the president of the polling station, proceeded with the expulsion of one or more assessors, one or more delegates, or one or more voters shall immediately, following the expulsion, present to the “Procureur de la Republique” (head prosecutor of the Republic) and the prefect (high ranked administrative) a verbal report of their mission.
The polling stations can make executive decisions in response to difficulties which may arise throughout the electoral operations.
All decisions taken are properly motivated. All the complaints and decisions are run through the “process-verbal”, and all related documents are annexed after being signed by the members of the polling station.
Throughout the duration of the voting operations, the “process verbal” is made available to members of the polling station, candidates, alternates and delegates of candidates, electors of the station, and persons in charge of controlling operations, who can thereon make their observations or complaints.
The ballot envelopes are provided by the state. They are opaque, not erased, and the same for every polling station.
The envelopes are sent to each town hall at least five days before the election, in the same number as registered voters. However, when the electoral district contains polling stations equipped with a voting machine, the number of envelopes is equal to the number of registered voters at the polling station not using the voting machines, and to 20% of voters registered at polling stations equipped with voting machines.
The special envelopes known as the hundred envelopes referenced in the second paragraph of article L. 65 are provided by the prefectural administration and sent to each town hall at the same time as the electoral envelopes
The mayor will immediately acknowledge when they receive the various envelopes.
The ballots cast by the candidates, pairs of candidates, or lists, pursuant to article L. 58, as well as those sent to the mayor by the Propaganda Committee are placed in each office, accessible to the electorate and under the responsibility of the president of the polling station.
The ballots are to be delivered directly to the mayor by the candidates or their duly appointed representatives no later than at noon the day before the election
On the day of the election, the ballot papers may be delivered directly to the polling station president by the candidates or their appointed representatives.
The mayor or the president of the polling station are not required to accept ballot papers delivered directly to them by the candidates or their appointed representatives, as this would not follow through with the second, third, and fourth paragraphs of article R.30.
The candidates or their representatives may, at any time, request the withdrawal of their ballots. For ballots with lists of candidates, this request can be made by the majority of candidates or by their designated alternates. For binomial ballots, this request must be made by both members of the ballot.
For polling stations equipped with electronic voting machines, the “prefect” (input foot) shall send to the mayor the list of candidates in the order of their registration no later than two days; this list is posted in each polling station for the duration of the voting operations.
Before the election, the mayor will confirm the entering of candidates into the electronic voting machines as they appear on the list sent by the prefect. The members of the polling office verify, prior to the opening of the polls, that the candidates mentioned on the machine correspond to those indicated in the official ballot list.
The documents consisting of articles L.10 to L.14, L. 57-1, L.60, L.62 to L.66, L.86, L.87, L.113, L.114, L.116, R.54, and R.65 are provided by the prefectural administration and, through oversight of the municipality, displayed at the entrance of each town hall during the election process, and at the entrance of each polling station on the day of the election.
The location of every polling station on election day must be accessible to all handicapped individuals, regardless of their disability.
Persons with disabilities, including those bound to wheelchairs, must be able to enter, move freely, and exit, when appropriate and by means of temporary or permanent arrangements, throughout the polling station’s normal operating conditions
The voting stations must be equipped with at least one booth for people with wheelchairs
The ballot boxes must be accessible to people in wheelchairs
The president of the polling station shall document and publicly mention through the “procès-verbal” the opening time and the closing time of the voting period.
No vote can be received after the polling station’s declared closing time. However, an elector who has entered the voting room before the closing time of the poll may deposit his ballot in the ballot box or have his vote recorded by an electronic voting machine after that time.
The right to vote for every registered voter is guaranteed following proper verification of their identity.
Individuals not registered on the electoral list shall not be allowed to vote.
Voters registered to “communes” with a population of 1000 or more must present an identity document to the president of the polling office during the voting process, at the same time as the electoral card or the certificate of registration; the list of valid titles is established by order of the Minister of the Interior.
At their request, the assessors are subject to this identity check.
The assessor is charged with verifying the implementation of the legal clauses within the last paragraph of Article L.62-1, and the second paragraph of Article L.64.
Following the signing of the application, the electoral card or certificate is stamped by another assessor by means of a stamp bearing the date of the election.
The operations referred to in this article shall be divided between the assessor designated by the candidates, the pairs of candidates, or “lists” presence in accordance to with the clauses of article R.44. In the event of a disagreement on the division, the procedure shall be by lot to the designation of the assessor(s) in charge of said operations. A draw is also held if none of the assessors have been nominated by the candidates, pairs of candidates or “lists” in attendance, or if the number of designated assessors is insufficient.
As soon as the polling closes, the list of signatures is signed by all members of the polling station. All signatures are also immediately counted.
The ballot counting will immediately follow the counting of the signatures. It must be conducted without stopping until the process is completed. The tables on which the ballot counting takes place are to be arranged in such a way that the electors can circulate around.
The ballot counting is carried out by tellers under the supervision of members of the bureaus. In the absence of sufficient tellers, the polling station may participate.
If at the end of the collection of the electoral envelopes, collected in groups of one hundred as stated in the second paragraph of article L.65, the polling office finds that the remaining envelopes total in any number less than one hundred, the envelopes are placed in another envelope of one hundred which must bear, in addition to the required signatures specified in said article paragraph, the number of electoral envelopes it contains.
The president (of the polling station) distributes the envelopes of one hundred among the various counting tables.
After verifying that the envelopes of one hundred comply with the guidelines of article L.65, the scrutineers shall open them, extract the envelopes, and proceed as described in the third paragraph of said article.
Once the ballot reading and tallying operations have been completed, the scrutineers shall return to the polling station the signed tally sheets along with the ballot papers, the electoral envelopes, and envelopes of one hundred consisting of irregularities or that have been contested by the electors or the candidates’ delegates.
In polling stations equipped with an electronic voting machine, the vote count shall take place immediately after the closing of the polls, in accordance with the provisions of the last paragraph of Article L.65. This count is added to the total vote count in application of said article.
(The following) Are void and do not count in the final result of the vote count.
Ballot papers that do not comply with the legal or regulatory requirements dictated for each election category.
Ballot papers prepared on behalf of a candidate, pair of candidates, or list whose application has not been registered
As subject to article R.30-1, ballot papers containing one or more names other than that of the candidate(s) or their possible successor(s).
Ballots containing a modified order of candidates.
Printed ballots of a different model produced either by the candidates or that contain a handwritten entry.
The use of “circulaires” as ballots.
Handwritten ballots within the poll of “list”
The provisions of this article shall not apply to the election of the municipal counselors in “communes” of less than 1000 residents.
Immediately after the end of the vote count, the “proces-verbal” electoral operations are drafted by the secretary in the voting room, and in the presence of the electors
It is drawn up in two copies, signed by all the members of the polling station.
The delegates for the candidates, pairs of candidates, or lists present are obligated to countersign the the two copies.
As soon as the “proces verbal” is drawn up, the result is proclaimed in public by the president of the polling station and posted in full by him in the voting room.
The documents provided in support of the claims and decisions taken by the polling station, as well as the tally sheets, are attached to the “proces verbal”
Ballots other than those which, in application of the legislation they regard, must be annexed to the “proces verbal”, are destroyed in the presence of the electors.
When the electors of the “commune” are divided back into several polling stations, the counting of the votes is first made by the station and the “procès-verbal” are drawn up in accordance with the provisions of Article R. 67. The president and the members of each polling station will then hand over the two copies of the “proces-vebal” and the annexes to the central polling office, which is responsible for conducting the general census of the votes in the presence of the presidents of the other polling stations.
The results determined by each office and their supporting documents cannot be modified under any circumstances.
A “proces-verbal” summary report is drawn up in duplicates in the presence of the electors. It is then signed by the members of the central polling office, the delegates of the candidates, the pairs of candidates, or the duly authorized “lists” in the presence of the of the other polling station presidents.
The result is then proclaimed publicly by the president of the central office and posted immediately by the mayor.
A copy of all drawn up “proces-verbaux” (plural) from the polling stations of each commune remain stationed at the secretariat of the town hall (secrétariat de la mairie).
Communication and proper transparency must be given to any applicant elector until the expiring of the time limit for the exercising of appeals against the election.
As soon as the electoral operations are over, the delegates of candidates, pairs of candidates, or “lists” present have priority to consult the registration lists submitted under the conditions set in article L.68
This page provides some background reading, in French, on the French electoral system:
“Les différents modes de scrutins” (Different ways of allocating seats)