E-vote for citizens abroad gains traction in Spain

Voting for expatriates tends to be a controversial issue in many countries, not only because the laws of several nations curtail the exercise of this political right, but also because the logistic required to let foreign nationals vote often hinders the process.

To turn this around, Spain is looking for solutions, and e-voting is considered as one of the tools to surpass the limitations faced by expatriates.

Early this year, Catalonians complained about the lack of legislation regulating political participation for expatriates, and about the absence of a technological mechanism to solve the difficulties of organizing elections outside the national territory.

More recently, the Central Electoral Board has spoken about the need to rescue the political rights of Spaniards residing abroad by means of e-voting.

The president of the board, Carlos Granados, has proposed the adoption of an automated model to solve the difficulties Spaniards who reside abroad face in order to vote. This was mentioned to the commission in charge of studying voting reform.

For Granados, although the so called voto rogado – i.e. ”pleaded vote”, where the voter must previously communicate their will to vote to an institution that may grant or refuse their request – is indeed constitutional, its application has meant delays and procedures which have reduced turnout. Granados states that they are looking for legal changes that allow the use of electoral technology as an alternative to conventional voting mechanisms like postal voting or voting in consulates, which should be kept nonetheless, but with “improvements”.

These statements join the recurrent claims from voters abroad, who usually face technical and logistical hurdles that curtail their democratic rights.  Some of these include the reception of wrong electoral materials at the diplomatic missions or the remote location of polling centres, usually consulates or embassies.  They also face difficulties to register and validate their condition as voters, primarily due to the request by some nations to have legal residency, or the fear of disclosing their migratory status.

Facing this reality, Spain finds itself in a good position to open the doors to change.  With it, they would make the political participation of all their citizens more viable, but this would also pave the road to select the safest and most effective voting model for all the republic.

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