Of the 48.7 million people enrolled to vote in the first round of France's presidential election, more than one in four opted to stay away. But 226,000 of those who turned out found they couldn't exercise their right after they were mistakenly struck off the electoral roll.
Since the 2021 regional elections, 226,962 voters have been removed from the electoral roll, according to the French statistics body, Insee, which organises the roll.
The worst affected areas are Ile-de-France (around Paris), Marseille, Lille and Strasbourg.
Some of the voters concerned only discovered they could no longer vote on 10 April once in the polling station.
"When you are told you have been struck off, and you cannot vote, it’s a very violent feeling," Nicolas, a resident of Alfortville in Val de Marne for 15 years, told Le Parisien daily. "You feel (like) an arbitrary victim."
The only recourse victims have is to take their case to the nearest tribunal, where in the majority of cases they can be reinstated.
Nicolas is now waiting for a decision to be delivered to be able to vote in the runoff on 24 April.
The most common explanation for the striking off is that people had "lost the link to their commune".
Nicolas believes it was because he had changed residency several times within the same commune. And yet his wife was not struck off. "It’s ubuesque," he said.
The errors are largely due to Insee's fully-automated single electoral register (REU).
Introduced in 2019, it replaced the cumbersome 35,000 lists managed by the communes themselves and which carried a risk of doubling up.
Le Parisien also identified bugs in the software used to manage the REU.
10,000 votes annulled
Meanwhile France’s Constitutional Council – responsible for carrying out spot checks during polling – has annulled 10,216 of the ballots cast on 10 April.
Among the 17 reasons invoked: the absence of bureau members at the time checks were carried out; urns that were not securely locked; voters asked to sign the attendance sheet before rather than after voting and significant yet unexplained differences between the number of ballots cast and the number of blank or invalid votes.
There were also some quirky cases.
The head of a polling station in Dénipaire, in the eastern Vosges region, aggressively stopped a Constitutional Council official from carrying out checks, thereby invalidating the vote.
The mayor of Léchelle in the northern Pas-de-Calais region, decided to hold polling for the 41 voters in his commune at his home rather than the shabby mairie.
The council deemed the venue inappropriate and reproached the mayor for not having obtained the necessary authorisation. It annulled the vote.
But mayor Gabriel Trannin is standing his ground and says he will follow the same proceedings for the runoff, along with officially registering his request with the local prefecture.