30 May 2014

Voting Spanish-style

‘Use your power. Choose who’s in charge of Europe.’ That was the message promoted by the European Parliament for the recent European Elections The voting took place between 22nd and 25th May across Europe.

That is, for those lucky enough to be able to vote. Soon after I arrived in Australia I registered in the Spanish Consulate in Sydney. Being over 18 years of age and registered at the Consulate is not enough to allow you to vote though. In addition to that, you need to be registered in the census. So I did. I filled a considerable number of pieces of paper and went down to Sydney to process the request.

So, I was surprised when a few weeks ago I received a letter from the Spanish register office asking me to confirm that I wanted to vote in the European elections. A kind of we’ve got you registered here, we know you’re in Australia and that you’ve made it clear that you want to vote as you have requested to be included in the census (no one will offer it to you, you have to ask) but just to make sure, do you really, really want to vote? I was amused and annoyed by the request but I complied and sent the letter confirming I was definitely interested in voting.

Days passed and I didn’t receive any of my voting papers until...the 22nd May, when I got a big pack of ‘papeletas’ (ballots) in the post. So many options to go for, if only it wasn’t because at the end of the letter explaining how I should proceed in order to cast my vote, it said I had to send it to the Spanish Consulate by 20th May!

As you can imagine I’m pretty frustrated at the disgusting way in which a supposedly democratic government makes it impossible for its citizens to vote.

This is the third time I can’t vote while being outside of Spain because of administrative reasons. The first time I was in London and, although registered in the Consulate, I wasn’t registered in the census. The second time it was soon after I arrived in Australia. I had limited time to register in the Consulate and as this only opens during week days I found it hard to get time off work to make the trip to Sydney. This time I thought I had everything covered but clearly I was wrong.

Talking to my family back home I’ve found out a lot of expats have gone through the same experience I have. I don’t think this can be just some innocent mistake and I plan to take it up with whatever institution I can complain to. I’ll let you know how it goes! Can you imagine this happening in Australia?