As stated in Lexiq, “voting tourism” is a form of electoral fraud whereby “large numbers of people register at once as voters in smaller settlements prior to an election, frequently putting down ruined, uninhabitable property as their home address.” These new “residents” are then “paid to vote in a certain way and therefore influence election results.”
However, Parliament has approved a new legal amendment that could open the floodgates to greater levels of “voting tourism” in Hungary, according to a statement put out by the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (TASZ) and Political Capital.
The amendment changes the concept of residence: from now on, those who establish residence will not actually have to live at their stated address. Their place of residence will become basically a kind of contact address for the person, with only the presumption of them living there, TASZ says.
Moreover, establishing a fictitious residence will simply no longer be punishable in Hungary, claims the organization. The section on forging public documents in the criminal code has been modified so that anyone can claim an address on a property of their own or with the consent of the property owner without facing criminal sanctions, even if it is obvious from the outset that they will not be living there.
According to TASZ, this modification is dangerous because there have been voters in the past few elections in Hungary who weren’t living at their stated addresses, but rather just established residency in certain places simply so they could vote there.
This happened several times in the 2019 municipal elections, claims the organization. In the 2018 parliamentary elections, there was large scale abuse of this type documented in northeastern Hungary.
As a consequence of the new amendment, TASZ says that those who establish a residence in bad faith just for the purpose of voting will not be held criminally liable for their acts in the future, nor will those who assist them.