surinenglish

Tempting, but not worth a jail sentence

Having written off being able to vote in the European Parliament elections ever again after the June 2016 referendum, imagine my joy when it turned out that I would have one last opportunity to do so before Brexit, as the UK government failed to reach an agreement over Theresa May's Withdrawal Agreement in time. I was straight on the phone to my local authority back in the UK to make sure I was still registered to vote. I was. My ballot paper was duly posted to Spain and I wasted no time in filling it in and sending it back (registered post - I hold little faith in those prepaid international stamp envelopes that come with the voting pack).

The European Parliament (EP) elections are taking place between 23 and 26 May, depending on the country; the UK always votes on a Thursday while many other European countries favour Sunday. In Spain they're taking place on Sunday at the same time as the local elections.

Any EU citizen has the right to vote in EP elections, either in their home country or country of residence. It would appear, however that while completely illegal, it is quite easy to vote in both countries even though countries are supposed to share voter information and take steps to prevent this from happening. It seems that there are varying levels of control on voting activity across the EU and the perpetrator may not get caught. They would be committing electoral fraud though, which can carry a prison sentence under a 1976 EU Act on electoral procedures.

When my Spanish local election voting forms arrived in the post earlier this week (I will be away on Sunday, so not able to go to the local polling station), you can imagine my utter delight when the lists and corresponding envelope for the Euro elections were included along with the local election papers!

The choice of 32 different parties' lists to choose from was, quite frankly, startling. Like local and national elections in Spain, European elections use the Proportional Representation (PR) system and the voter is required to select a list, pop it in the envelope provided and put it in the ballot box (or take it to the post office in my case).

Not only did I get to vote once, but here I was being given the opportunity to cast my vote twice, in two EU countries! Poetic justice, I thought. Until I looked into it and came across the aforementioned EU election fraud act. I decided not to risk a jail sentence for the sake of a vote and it's a timely reminder to any foreign residents who have already voted in EP elections in their home country, that even if presented with the opportunity when voting in the local elections here on Sunday, not to do so.

However, if you haven't voted at home then you are within your democratic right to do so in Spain.