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We Voted More Than Once In This French Presidential Primary And That's Not Okay

Four out of five Parisian polling stations we visited let us vote in the Socialist Party's primary without any proof of registration.

Posted on February 2, 2017, at 11:03 a.m. ET

France holds its presidential election in April, and things are getting kind of bonkers.

Eric Piermont / AFP / Getty Images, Christophe Archambault / AFP / Getty Images

Right now there are three main candidates: the National Front's Marine Le Pen, representing the far-right; former prime minister François Fillon, who is currently dealing with a major scandal, is representing the center-right; and independent Emmanuel Macron, the centrist candidate. It's really anyone's game right now.

BuzzFeed France has been testing the voting systems in a few parties' primaries, and here's where it gets even more bonkers.

Damien Meyer / AFP / Getty Images

Last month, a BuzzFeed France reporter managed to vote twice without any problem in the first round of the Socialist Party's primary.

Two journalists from Le Monde had the same experience. BuzzFeed France also succeeded in voting in the Green Party's primary under two fictitious names. (Neither party is within reach of winning the general election — and the right-wing parties have had their ballots on lock — but it's still a big problem.)

After the first round of voting, Thomas Clay, the Socialist Party official responsible for organizing the primary, admitted there were "minor and marginal incidents" in the voting process, "like in all elections."

Clay said that the incidents had been "sorted out." So on January 29, the day of the second round of primary voting, BuzzFeed France visited five polling stations in Paris to see if it was still possible to vote more than once.

The ballot cast in the investigation was left blank in each case, so as not to influence the final result. And we sent the same reporter — the author of this story — as in the first round to carry out this renewed investigation.

First stop: the two polling stations that BuzzFeed France visited during the first round.

Assma Maad / BuzzFeed News

The first one is located in the 20th district of Paris, and the second one in the neighboring12th district.

We presented the two tickets that we were given after voting in the first round.

Assma Maad / BuzzFeed News
Assma Maad / BuzzFeed News

The poll workers checked the name we provided against the sheets used in the first round and allowed BuzzFeed France to vote.

BuzzFeed News

Three other polling stations (also in the 20th district) were visited to see if voting could also take place there, even though ew hadn't voted at those locations in the first round.

Assma Maad / BuzzFeed News

The author of this story registered to vote in Paris for the first time in November 2016, so wasn't yet on the list of eligible voters at the polling station. (They did receive confirmation of registration in the mail, and according to the primary election rules, needed to show that and ID to vote.)

However, some polling stations never asked for proof of registration. Others asked for it, but allowed voting to happen anyway when we said we didn't have the letter.

Only one of the polling stations not tested in the first round of the primary refused to let us vote without proof of registration, following the rules. But two others did.

Assma Maad / BuzzFeed News
Assma Maad / BuzzFeed News

"Go on, I trust you," one poll worker said after being informed we weren't carrying ID.

Jeff Pachoud / AFP / Getty Images

Another worker joked about the voting irregularities noted in the first round of the primary: "We are going to get our wrists slapped by journalists again, but we don't care, they are always pissing us off in any case."

Emmanuel Grégoire, the First Secretary of the Socialist Federation of Paris, told BuzzFeed France that our findings were "not normal" and that he "is going to ask for explanations again."

Raymond Roig / AFP / Getty Images

"We are witnessing a circumvention of the rule of election organization which is the obligation to show a proof," he said. "What you were able to do is not normal, it is due to a lack of vigilance of the poll workers and presidents of the stations.

"I reported the incidents to the polling station presidents, who told me that they had yet been very careful. But if you have managed to do the same thing again, I will ask for explanations again."

"In any case, I regret it and I would like to hope that it is very marginal and I am convinced by that," he concluded. "I will call the polling stations again to understand how you managed to slip through the net."

Christophe Borgel, president of the primary election organizing committee, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

There haven't been concerns about voter fraud in the general election, which is supervised by France's Constitutional Council. But these issues in the party primaries don't instill confidence in the political system before a crucial election.

Christophe Archambault / AFP / Getty Images

This post was translated from French.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.