On May 26th five different elections are taking place here in Spain – European citizens, who are over 18, on their local ‘padrón’ and have indicated their wish to be on the census, are entitled to vote in two of those – local and European. For British citizens the right to vote was confirmed by a bi-lateral agreement signed by the Spanish and British governments early this year – at the time it was an issue as the UK was due to leave the European Union prior to the European elections.
If you have never voted in Spain before, the voting system and seat allocation is quite different to the ‘first past the post’ system in the UK. Here in Spain a list system is used in all local, regional, national and European elections. This means each party who is taking part in the election has a list of candidates that has been chosen by their individual parties and confirmed officially and registered about a month before the election (so the list isn’t open to change or additions as the date nears). Usually a party will have more candidates on the list than seats on the local council – so there are substitutes in the case of death or resignation during the life of the council.
After the election date is announced, candidates will campaign until just before the election. Campaigning is prohibited during the two-day reflection period just prior to an election, as well as on election day, which is on Sunday May 26th, polling is from 9am to 8pm.
You should have received a polling card through the post telling you where your polling station is – however if you have not received such a card you are still able to vote as long as you are on the census. On Election Day, take identification and any voting papers to the polls. In the polling booth, lists of the parties running for election will be available. The name of the party will be at the top of each list. And given that there are five different elections on Sunday, there are colours for each ballot – white for local election lists, blue for European election lists.
Choose the list of candidates that you want to vote for, place it into one of the envelopes provided and seal the envelope. You may already have the vote prepared as many of the parties will have either posted you their lists already in envelopes or gone door to door on the canvas. Bringing the list sealed is perfectly legal and often preferred by voters as it saves time. Obviously writing on the list will be considered a spoilt vote. Stuffing the envelope with more than one list will also, quite likely, see your vote discounted. Hand your sealed votes to the returning officer who will place it in the ballot box.
British citizens who are resident in Spain are entitled to vote as an overseas voter, but they may only vote in European Union elections in one country.
Once polls close the doors of each voting centre are shut and the returning officer begins to count the votes. Each party can and usually does have official representation in the polling stations who have the right to stay and oversee the count. When the count is complete the results are sealed and sent to a central count centre, and first official results are usually known within hours of the last vote being cast with local and national television stations running live elections specials.