The difficulties that Spaniards living abroad face to vote in their country’s elections were particularly evident in Los Angeles, where over half of the people who requested an absentee ballot for the December 20 general election were unable to exercise their right.
Around 54% of eligible Spaniards who applied for distance voting at the consulate in L.A. very likely did not receive their paperwork in time.
The Spanish consul in Los Angeles, Javier Vallaure, is one of the people who was unable to vote for this reason.
Participation by Spaniards abroad has tumbled nearly 27 percent since new rules went into effect, going from 31.88% in 2008 to 4.95% in 2011
This correspondent, who applied online, also did not get his documentation in time to vote. Yet the application was formally approved and the paperwork officially sent out by the Spanish postal service on November 30.
The delay underscores the deficiencies in a system called voto rogado that was introduced in 2011 following an agreement between Spain’s two main parties, the Popular Party (PP) and the Socialist Party (PSOE).
Under the new rules, emigrés wishing to vote have to complete a new application every time Spain holds a ballot. Some Spaniards have also reported arbitrary requirements, with some diplomatic delegations asking for birth certificates and others bypassing this request.
As a result, participation by Spaniards abroad has tumbled nearly 27% since the new rules went into effect, going from 31.88% in 2008 to 4.95% in 2011.
Spain’s mail service not to blame
A spokesperson for the Spanish postal service said that 98% of all voting papers had been mailed out to various countries by December 6, but noted that final delivery was up to each nation’s own postal service.
“Correos does not take the papers to a village in Venezuela,” said the spokesperson. “Correos sends it to Caracas and the operator there takes it to other cities. That is where our job ends. If the country in question does not have a developed postal service, it is hard to control how long it will take for the documents to arrive to the furthest towns and villages.”
There are around 12,500 Spaniards registered with the LA consulate, which serves southern California, Arizona, Colorado and Utah. Of these, 8,401 are on the voting rolls.
But in order to vote, it is no longer enough to be on the voter rolls. Rather, applicants have to ask for their voting papers to be sent to them, which entails producing a series of documents during a timeframe of eight days. In London and Hamburg, applicants talked about lineups of three to five hours.
At the LA consulate, 872 people went through the paperwork, but only 402 actually voted (46%).
It is theoretically possible that the other 470 individuals suddenly became seriously ill, got stuck in traffic, died suddenly or spent the last three days standing in line to watch Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
But given that these people went to all the trouble of dealing with the paperwork, a more plausible explanation in most cases is that their voting papers did not arrive in time.
English version by Susana Urra.