European Parliament calls on Spanish Government to review voting system for residents abroad
The Committee on Petitions of the European Parliament requested the Spanish Government to review the voting system for residents abroad. It considers the current system to imply “difficulties” and believes that it “can be improved”. The vice-president of the committee, the Conservative People’s Party MEP from the Balearic Islands Rosa Estaràs, announced that the complaint of two young Spanish people that had difficulty voting in the general elections of 2011 and in the European elections of 2014 will continue to be investigated, while awaiting explanations from the Spanish Government. In addition, the European Parliament will send a letter to the Spanish Parliament and are confident that the case will be tackled by the Foreign Affairs Committee and the European Commission.
Barcelona (CNA).- The Committee on Petitions of the European Parliament believes that the current Spanish system of voting for residents abroad entails “difficulties” and can be “improved”. This was announced by the vice-president of the committee, the Conservative People’s Party MEP from the Balearic Islands Rosa Estaràs, following the complaints of two Spanish citizens. Gabriel de la Cruz and María de las Nieves Sanz presented a petition regarding their difficulties in exercising their right to vote in the General Elections of 2011 as well as in the European Elections of 2014. Estaràs confirmed that the petition will remain open pending a response from the Spanish Government, to which the committee will send a letter. The entity will also send a letter to the Spanish Parliament, urge the institution to turn the petition into a legislative initiative and also request that the issue is raised with the Foreign Affairs Committee and the European Commission.
Left-wing pro-independence ERC MEP and member of the Committee on Petitions, Josep Maria Terricabras, welcomed the decision because the vote from abroad is an issue that affects many Catalan voters. “I have often complained that Catalan citizens living abroad have insurmountable difficulties to vote”, said Terricabras. “I am pleased that the Committee on Petitions of the European Parliament, of which I am part, has prompted the Spanish Government to review the current procedure”, he added.
The two citizens who complained about the system of voting from overseas, Gabriel de la Cruz and María de las Nieves Sanz, assured the committee that the reform of the Organic Law of the General Electoral Regime (LOREG) makes it “almost impossible to exercise the right to vote” and that the deadlines for receiving voting ballots are almost never met. In this regard, they stressed that participation among residents abroad has fallen from 32% to 4.95%. The main reason for the low participation is the change of the electoral law in 2010, which turned the vote abroad into a long and confusing process that introduced the ‘requested vote’ concept.
The two Spanish petitioners consider the obligation to register, the unreasonable deadlines for doing so and the need to cover the cost of sending the vote by correspondence discrimination against expatriates, and that, even though the procedure has been followed, the documentation is not received in time to vote or never arrives.
The European Commission (EC), which often sends a representative to the discussions of the committee on Petitions of the European Parliament, stressed that it is essential that citizens can exercise their right to vote. However, the representative explained that the EC has no competences to intervene in the electoral system of national elections, but it does have competences to do so for the local and the European elections.
Voting abroad, “an authentic odyssey”
The vote abroad was described as “an authentic odyssey” by the Catalan Minister for Public Administration Meritxell Borràs when more than 200,000 Catalans whom were registered to vote in the 27-S Catalan elections couldn’t ultimately do so.
In the 27-S Catalan Elections, only 7.5% of the nearly 200,000 Catalans living abroad who were registered had their ballots received and counted. In all, 21,771 Catalans abroad requested to vote, but only 14,781 ballots were counted in the end. “7,000 ballots from people who registered to vote, which is certainly an annoying process, never reached their destination. Something went wrong here” stated Borràs at the time. The 7,000 ballots that were not counted were actually sent out on time, the Minister stated.