The reform of the requested vote unites the parties in Congress
The Minister of the Presidency, Relations with the Courts and Democratic Memory, Félix Bolaños (on the left), and the PNV spokesman in Congress, Aitor Esteban, talk this Wednesday in the Congress of Deputies.
The Minister of the Presidency, Relations with the Courts and Democratic Memory, Félix Bolaños (on the left), and the PNV spokesman in Congress, Aitor Esteban, talk this Wednesday in the Congress of Deputies.Eduardo Parra (Europa Press)

The reform of the requested vote no longer arrives in time for the Andalusian elections, but it will be in force for the municipal and regional elections next year, provided that no advance call is made beforehand. The Congress of Deputies has given the green light this Thursday to a text, the result of an almost unanimous agreement, in order to simplify the procedures for the issuance of suffrage to the 2.2 million Spaniards residing abroad. The future law must now pass the final filter of the Senate, where the political consensus allows us to predict that it will go ahead without difficulty.

The legislative initiative involves reversing the reform approved in 2011, in which the requested vote formula was devised in an attempt to curb the irregularities detected in the votes of the so-called absent residents in some countries such as Argentina. To ensure that the ballots did not fall into the hands of their recipients, it was imposed that the Administration would only send them if they previously requested them.

That reform approved with great consensus had “unforeseen and unwanted” effects, as popular deputy José Antonio Bermúdez Castro stressed on Wednesday. What was intended to be a guarantee became an almost insurmountable bureaucratic obstacle and the participation of residents abroad fell drastically, from around 30% to 5%, while the great exodus of young Spaniards after the The Great Recession caused the census to skyrocket. Even now, the number of registered abroad has grown by 6% since the last general elections of 2019.

The Administration will once again send ballots to all voters registered outside of Spain, although they will also have the possibility of downloading them electronically. The law commits the Government to enable more premises in other countries to facilitate voting at the ballot box. The deadlines for both the issuance of the vote and for its scrutiny in Spain are also extended.

“It is a step forward for our democracy,” Bermúdez de Castro congratulated himself, in one of those few debates without major disagreements in the chamber. “An example of useful politics”, explained the Minister of the Presidency, Félix Bolaños. “It will no longer be necessary to overcome a gymkhana to vote.”

Only one political group, the BNG, abstained in the vote. The Galician nationalists had been at the time the most belligerent in demanding the previous reform. Among the Galician colony abroad – up to 15% of the total census of the autonomous community – the most frequent irregularities had been registered, such as voting on behalf of people who had already died. As BNG deputy Néstor Rego recalled this Wednesday in Congress, the activity of electoral agents in countries such as Argentina to seize ballots sent from Spain and supplant the voter was also documented. The BNG, even in agreement with suppressing the requested vote, presented amendments to establish more guarantees against the possibility that these practices are repeated and they were rejected.

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The initiative for the current reform came from the two government parties, after the strong protest movement, highly supported by Podemos, which had been carried out in recent years by young people displaced abroad through the so-called Garnet Tide. Several members of that group attended the approval of the text from the Congress tribune.

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