DosMillonesDeVotos y Marea Granate remitieron ayer una carta conjunta a la Organización para la Seguridad y la Cooperación en Europa (OSCE) explicando en detalle los obstáculos a los que se están teniendo que enfrentar 2 millones de españoles residiendo en el exterior a la hora de ejercer su derecho al voto. La OSCE anunció esta semana que enviará una Misión de Evaluación Electoral (EAM, por sus siglas en inglés) a las próximas elecciones generales del 20 de diciembre, para, entre otras cosas, velar por el buen funcionamiento del voto por correo. En un informe publicado por la OSCE hace unos días, el organismo reconocía haber detectado cierta "disatisfacción" con el procedimiento del voto por correo.
24 November 2025
Mr. Michael Georg Link
Director of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, OSCE
Dear Mr. Link,
We are writing to you on behalf of Marea Granate, a network of Spanish citizens living abroad involved in the defense of their rights as well as on behalf of DosMillonesDeVotos, an ad hoc and independent professional platform of lawyers established to defend the right to vote of Spanish citizens living abroad.
We are writing to you further to the ODIH’s Needs Assessment Mission Report of 23 November 2015. The purpose of this letter is to describe in further detail the obstacles to vote faced by Spanish citizens residing temporarily or permanently abroad as a result of an ill-designed electoral legislation which is briefly addressed in page 4 of the aforementioned report. We focus below on five main areas:
- The electoral reform of 2011
On 21 January 2011, the Spanish parliament amended the electoral law, namely, the Ley Orgánica del Régimen Electoral General (LOREG), a so-called basic or fundamental law that requires a qualified majority of parliament to be amended. The new law (Ley Orgánica 2/2011) established in its Article 75, inter alia, the requirement for voters living permanently abroad to request the ballots in advance of every election (“voto rogado”). Until the modification of the law, ballot papers were directly received by those registered abroad without any further procedure. The new legislation was introduced allegedly to combat electoral fraud and replicated a mechanism provided for in the Royal Decree (RD) 1621/2007 for the vote of Spanish citizens temporarily abroad which posed extreme difficulties in the exercise of the right to vote. Whilst we believe that measures need to be adopted to ensure the fairness as well as the integrity of the process for elections, we consider that the so-called “voto rogado”, far from building trust in the electoral system, has further alienated Spanish citizens living abroad.
The impact of the electoral reform has been devastating. Voter turnout of Spanish citizens permanently abroad went down from 31.88% in the parliamentary elections of 2008 to 4.95% in the parliamentary elections of 2011 (a percentage that has dropped even further in recent European, regional and local elections). Publicly available data concerning the upcoming 20 December elections indicate that only 6.11% of the over 1.8 million voters registered as permanent residents abroad have requested the ballot. The percentage of valid votes will in all likelihood be lower given that in past elections, ballots have failed to reach voters (some were delayed and some were never received). This extremely low turnout of Spanish voters abroad questions the inclusive nature, integrity and fairness of our electoral system and our democracy. In a context where the number of emigrants from Spain is growing as a result of the economic crisis affecting our country, addressing this issue has become even more pressing.
- Lack of information
Coupled with the complexity of the process, there has been very little outreach by the relevant authorities involved (Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Ministry of the Interior, Ministry of Finance and the Central Electoral Commission) to promote voter registration and to facilitate the process of ballot request . Even though consulates and embassies maintain a register with the contact details (emails and addresses) of citizens under their jurisdiction, in most cases they fail to inform adequately about the procedures to follow in order to be able to vote. Actually, in an important number of cases, information provided by consulates and embassies has been incorrect or misleading. Moreover, in spite of the complexity of the current legislation, there is a glaring absence of effective institutional campaigns. Indeed, most of the institutional information has been insufficient and/or contradictory. As a result, most citizens receive their information from self-support citizen initiatives, such as our respective organizations, which have received hundreds of requests for advice and technical support. We remain at your disposal to brief you on the requests we have received as well as on any other further details concerning our activities.
- Limited timeframe
The time limits for the process are insufficient and have been denounced by the Central Electoral Commission itself. This has been largely ignored by the government and no measures have been adopted to remedy the situation. As a result, the essential steps to exercise the right to vote are impeded. Once elections are announced, voters are in many cases unable to register at their respective consulates (a pre-requirement for the ballot request) due to the fact that the census closes three months before the electoral period (the elections are announced by means of a RD 54 days before Election Day) and almost five months before the actual Election Day. The time period available for any amendment to the census and for the ballot request for Spanish citizens residing permanently abroad is limited to seven days. For those residing temporarily abroad, the time period for registration and ballot request is limited to less than a month and cannot be done beyond one month before Election Day. In addition, roughly half of the ballots that are actually requested do not make it to the ballot boxes; in many cases because ballot papers do not reach the voters in time to be cast. The direct consequence of the limited time periods available to go through the necessary procedures has had a very significant impact on the ability of many Spanish citizens to vote.
- Restrictive interpretation of the applicable norms for voter registration
Participation is further hindered by a narrow interpretation of relevant provisions of implementing regulations, such as the RD 3425/2000 for the consular registration of Spanish citizens living (temporarily or permanently) abroad. This interpretation restricts the effective exercise of the right to vote. We understand that there are internal instructions given by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation to the consulates and embassies, requiring the registration and modification of inscriptions in the consular registry to be done in person. This however is nowhere provided for in the by-laws such as the above referenced RD. Moreover, we understand that based on the same instructions, temporary residents are forced to register as permanently abroad based on a dubious (and inconsistent) understanding of the RD. Indeed, some consulates in identical circumstances have applied the RD in a different manner. The forced registration as permanent residents abroad has discouraged a large percentage of Spanish citizens from exercising their right to vote. This is mainly due to the consequences attached to the condition of permanent resident abroad and the loss of their status as a resident of Spain. The conflation of the right to vote with the status of the person abroad has created an enormous amount of problems and anxiety, again leading to a very significant decrease in participation.
- Voting is not free of cost
Spanish citizens residing far from their respective consulates or embassies are required to travel, sometimes thousands of miles, to fulfill in person the requirements imposed by the law or the regulations in place. Such is the case of the Spanish citizens residing in Vancouver, whose corresponding consular office is in Ottawa, 4,366.6 km. away. Moreover, most consular offices are open only until 2 pm and there are no extraordinary measures adopted to service the limited period of approximately two months prior to the elections in spite of the difficult and time-consuming procedures imposed by the legislation. As a result, Spanish citizens residing abroad need to take time off from their jobs in order to undertake the procedures needed to vote. Furthermore, temporary residents have to mail their ballots to Spain (permanent residents can cast it in ballot boxes in embassies and consulates). Voters who successfully overcome the obstacles to cast their ballot report that they have not received the reimbursement to which they are entitled to and, when they receive it, it often does not cover the expenses of a registered letter from their countries of residence to Spain. On top of that, there is no mechanism to monitor whether the ballot is actually received and whether the time and money spent in exercising the right to vote actually resulted in a valid vote.
In light of the above, we would welcome a meeting with the upcoming mission of the OSCE to the parliamentary elections of December 20th with a view to clarify some of the aspects described above and/or provide supplementary information.