Government to promote electronic voting from abroad within three months
The Government has announced that within three months it will promote a new plan of action to implement electronic voting. The plan of action includes tests for the novel system to be carried out before the end of the year, and the Government hopes for it to be implemented by the next Parliamentary elections. Catalan Minister for Public Administration Meritxell Borràs explained that the objective is to avoid a repetition of the “shame”of the elections held on the 27th of September, during which a large number of Catalans residing abroad who were registered to vote did not have their ballots counted, although the documents were mailed on time. While Borràs, noted that she has not yet communicated the decision to promote the electronic voting system with Madrid, she has no doubt that the plan of action will be met with “maximum collaboration”.
Barcelona (CNA).- The government has announced that in three months it will present a plan of action to implement the electronic vote for Catalans abroad, so that it can be applied in the next Parliamentary elections. Catalan Minister for Public Administration Meritxell Borràs explained that the objective is to avoid a repetition of the “shame”of the elections held on the 27th of September, during which a large number of Catalans residing abroad who were registered to vote did not have their ballots counted, although the documents were mailed on time. Borràs argued that electronic voting can be promoted with the current legal framework through a decree approved by the electoral law, known as LOREG (an acronym in Spanish for Organic Law of General Electoral Regime). Borràs conceded that she has not yet communicated her intention to promote electronic voting with Madrid, but she has no doubt that the proposal will be met with “maximum collaboration”.
During the last press conference at the Executive Council, Borràs recalled the “frustration and powerlessness”that the problems regarding voting abroad provoked on the 27th of September in 2015. Only 14,000 of the 200,000 people registered to vote were able to cast their ballot. In order to ensure the right to vote and to avoid repeating the “shame”of the past elections, the government has announced that in three months it will have completed a plan of action on how to implement electronic voting from abroad.
This constitutes, according to Borràs, a “first step”to lay the “foundation”so that electronic voting becomes a reality, with the objective of it being applied in the next Parliamentary elections, to be held in approximately 16 months.
The plan of action has yet to determine which electronic voting model would be more suitable. The possible options are either supplying the electoral documentation necessary to vote online, electronic voting in person or remote electronic voting.
Implementing the electronic vote will need the collaboration of the Spanish Electoral Roll Office and the Office of Electoral Census. While Borràs conceded that the decision to promote the electronic voting system has not yet been communicated to Madrid, the Minister expressed her conviction that there will be “maximum possible cooperation”to move forward. “One of the Government´s obligation, be it Catalan or Spanish, is precisely to facilitate voting”she maintained.
The Minister deemed an “anomaly” the fact that an electronic vote is not being considered in the 21st century. She added that she does not dismiss that in the “not too distant future”it may be possible to apply this system for all citizens. However, she emphasised that the objective of the Government is to implement it for Catalans residing abroad for the next Catalan elections.
In the field of technology, the plan of action should detail which requirements are necessary to ensure “the integrity, privacy and transparency of the process through the creation of a voting platform”. In this sense, Borràs stated that the technological tools that will be developed must guarantee the “safety and the identity of the voter, preventing duplicity/duplication, and ensuring voting secrecy and transparency in the election”.
Problems on the 27S voting day
On the 27S, only 7.5% of the nearly 200,000 Catalans living abroad who were registered to vote 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. The 7,000 ballots that were not counted were actually sent out on time, the Minister stated. However, she described the vote abroad as “an authentic odyssey”, “a bureaucratic torment” during which voters had to “deal with consulates, embassies, shortened timetables, as the process took place in August, different criteria and of course, paying the cost of all the journeys and procedures required”.
Borràs urged the Spanish State to not “ignore such a violation of a basic and fundamental right”, arguing that “in a democracy, voting is sacred”.
An appeal to the Supreme Court
In October of 2015, the Catalan Government denounced the voting obstacles Catalans living abroad faced in an appeal to the Supreme Court. This was in order to “avoid such an absurd situation from happening again”, stated Borràs. “It is clear that irregularities did happen in the months and weeks before the 27-S”and “someone must be held accountable, whether it is someone in the Postal Service, the Foreign Ministry, or the Electoral Roll Office”the Minister for Public Administration stated. Following the appeal, Borràs also confirmed that the Government had requested a report from both the Postal Service and the Electoral Roll Office to analyse their procedures.
While the Catalan Minister for Public Administration didn’t accuse the Spanish State of acting deliberately, she stated that the Electoral Roll Office worked to make the procedures “more complicated, rather than facilitating the right to vote”. “A third of Catalans who requested to vote couldn’t ultimately do so and this is not an opinion, it is a fact”she concluded.