Many Catalans abroad won’t be able to vote

Only 7% of the 200,000 Catalans living abroad voted in the 2012 Catalan elections and the figure isn’t likely to increase much in the upcoming 27-S elections. Spain’s Electoral Roll Office ignored the Catalan Government’s request to extend the postal vote for those living outside of Catalonia, with the Spanish body only extending it for those who lived in other parts of Spain, not overseas. With just a few days left before Election Day and amidst complaints of ballots arriving too late, confusing processes and the new ‘requested vote’ system seem to have deprived many voters abroad of their right to decide. 

Catalans in Washington DC (by ANC)
Catalans in Washington DC (by ANC) / ACN / Sara Prim

ACN / Sara Prim

September 25, 2015 06:50 PM

Barcelona (CNA).- 195,533 Catalans living abroad are registered to vote. However, too many obstacles to the electoral procedures may deprive them of exercising their democratic right. With just a few days left before Election Day, ballots that arrived too late, confusing processes and the new ‘requested vote’ system have impeded Catalans living all over the world from expressing their political opinion. Moreover, Spain’s Electoral Office ignored the Catalan Government’s request to extend the postal vote for those living outside of Catalonia, with the Spanish body only extending it for those who lived in other parts of Spain, not overseas.

Catalan institutions worked well in advance to inform those Catalans living abroad of the deadlines and procedures required in order to exercise their right, the same complaints and obstacles as seen in other elections have emerged. Many voters couldn’t meet the deadlines because the ballots didn’t arrive in time. Others are still waiting for their ‘requested vote’ request to be accepted. As a result of all these obstacles, participation amongst those Catalans living abroad is likely to be, once again, very low.

The vote abroad is a complex process. First, those who want to vote have to make sure they are registered at the proper embassy or consulate and formally request their vote, known as the ‘requested vote’. Then, the Provincial Electoral Boards have to print and send the different ballots to the voter’s domicile and finally the voter has to make his choice and send the ballots back to his country, all this assuming that the postal services involved carry out their deliveries on time.

Today, Catalans who live abroad and want to vote in the 27th of September elections have to choose between three different procedures, according to their administrative status: those who live abroad permanently and are consequently registered; those who live abroad temporarily and are registered as such; and those who live abroad permanently or temporarily but aren’t yet registered (whom are then considered as Catalan citizens living in Catalonia).

Marta, London

Marta, 29, is a teacher living in the British capital. “In my case, I had to vote through ERTA, the system designed for those who are temporarily living abroad” she explained to CNA. “I called the Spanish Consulate in order to register and then apply to vote. I was given an appointment – at the end of October.” Marta told the Consulate that she needed an appointment before the 29th of August; otherwise she wouldn’tbe able to get the ballots and official envelopes in time. Their response was “we're sorry, this is how it works, the next available appointment is at end of October. There's nothing we can do for you madam”, she recounted regretfully. “Why do they make it so complex? Why is all this process so archaic and obsolete?” she wondered, “I think it's infuriating and outrageous and certainly the Spanish government knows we're not going to vote for the party they want us to so they just make it ridiculously complicated for us to exercise one of our most legitimate rights” she stated. 

Joan, Mexico DF

Joan is a Catalan journalist and writer, who moved to Mexico 5 years ago. “I have never been able to effectively vote since I came here” he regrets. “Although it is not a surprise to be deprived of that right once again, it still makes me furious and helpless” he stated. He registered as a Catalan temporarily living abroad on time and he filled out all the documents required in order to vote. “Then I had to wait for an envelope from Spain’s Electoral Roll Office with all the ballots” and it had to arrive well in advance, as after casting the vote, it had to be send back to Barcelona in time for the Elections, “I crossed my fingers, but I’m still waiting for them” he lamented. “I don’t know which agent failed; the mail service, the Spanish embassy in Mexico, or all of them” he said “all I know is that my vote won’t be considered. Again”.

Oriol, Oakland

“All those who are entitled to vote should definitely do so. At least, they should do it for all those Catalans abroad who keep on failing to successfully achieve it” said Oriol. “I called the Consulate in New York, were I was living before moving to Oakland” he explained “and even though I registered on time and met all the deadlines and procedures required, they informed me that I won’t be able to vote” as “the ballots never came”. Oriol admitted this is not the first time this has happened to him. “I was closer in the last Catalan elections” he stated “the ballots did arrive, but it was impossible to send it back to Barcelona in time for Election Day. It was even worse!” he recalled. “I’m seriously thinking of planning my visits home according to the electoral calendar” he added with some irony “it is the only way to guarantee you’ll be allowed to vote. And you can see your friends and family at the same time”.