Headlong schedule puts remote voting in Catalonia at risk

Since the proposal of automating the voting process for Catalans residing abroad was presented last April, the project has been moving swiftly, to the point that it is taken for granted that automation will take place in next year’s autonomous elections.

The Governor’s office councilwoman Meritxell Borràs, who has been leading the initiative, states it was proved during the September 2015 that traditional postal voting or having to vote at diplomatic seats in other countries “does not seriously guarantee the right [to vote]”, since only 14,781 out of the 196,065 Catalans residing abroad voted.

The urgency to revert this minimal turnout is the driving force that keeps this project moving full steam ahead. However, the haste with which it is advancing could jeopardize its goal, because the adoption of new technology requires that no stages should be overlooked.

So far, the government of Catalonia passed the draft bill that establishes the implementation of an Internet voting model for Catalans enrolled in the CERA (Electoral Census of Spaniards Residing Abroad).

The legal initiative also contemplates an action plan that appears to be thorough for every single stage, but which is also risky since it sets a 10-month deadline for its fulfilment after the law passes:  “Hiring Internet voting services, implementing the technology, executing advertisement campaigns, pilot tests and effectively using the system within an electoral process”.

The plan laid out by the Catalans could mean the adoption of electoral technology by this important Spanish autonomous community, given that the vital phases for its safe and transparent adoption have already been laid out.

However, the success of this endeavour once the law passes will depend on whether the deadlines that have been set allow for the full completion of every stage. Electronic voting is designed to safeguard the will of every voter, but in order to do so it needs to be adopted flawlessly.

This draft bill states that Catalan voters can choose between postal and Internet voting; the latter would require them to enrol on a website, and confirm their identities in order to get credentials to vote.  It is expected that voting will take place from a computer, tablet or smartphone.

Borràs stated that “the experiences in other countries confirm [Catalonia’s] determination to adopt electronic voting”- Catalonia is well under way; hopefully the momentum they are showing now will keep over time.


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