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Electronic voting law for Catalans abroad passes first parliament test

Amendments proposed by the Partido Popular and Ciudadanos, arguing that the law oversteps Catalonia’s powers and that it would be used for an independence referendum, are rejected

The law on electronic voting for Catalans abroad has passed the first step in Parliament and will now be considered by a committee. The government aims to have it enacted next June or July so it is ready for the independence referendum in September, as ARA has previously reported.

The bill on electronic voting for Catalans resident abroad moved ahead because a majority of the Parliament rejected the People’s Party (PP) and Citizens’ (C’s) two proposed amendments (34 votes in favour of the amendments and 98 against, with no abstentions). The other four parties are in favour of proceeding with the bill.

Esperanza García, a member of parliament for PP, said: "This law is not about improving democracy, it’s for the hyperventilating separatist movement which, having no consensus at home, is now looking for one overseas". She added: "It doesn’t really guarantee the right to vote and, let’s be honest, it’s another tool to use for a future referendum". García noted that countries like Germany and the Netherlands, after trying online voting, got rid of the system “for lack of security".

Carlos Carrizosa of C’s is also opposed to the law, but not at its heart, as he approves of electronic voting itself; rather, he is opposed to this form: “The minister has said that voting is a fundamental right; sure, so then it can’t be changed by a regional parliament because it is governed by an organic law[1]. Not bearing responsibility for it doesn’t mean we don’t have to fix it where there are problems, just that it has to be done where it has to be done, where the sovereignty of all Spaniards resides".

Something all the representatives agree on is that, due to the “begged for vote”[2] –first introduced in 2010 with the supporting votes of Catalonia’s CiU— the turnout of Catalans abroad has dropped shockingly.

The Catalan minister for Governance, Meritxell Borràs, has defended the continued passage of the bill: "In the [Catalan] elections on 27 September 2015, we felt impotent along with all the Catalans who wanted to vote but couldn’t: Of the 200,000 Catalans abroad, 21,000 applied to vote and only 14,000 did vote”.

Borràs has assured that the technology exists, is secure and raises no legal problems, that only “the political will is lacking to bring in electronic voting".

From the Socialists’ Party of Catalonia, MP David Pérez has also defended the law: "The central electoral board yesterday published a report in which they recommend making the changes necessary to use electronic voting. This means it can be done, it’s legal and constitutional".

Joan Josep Nuet, from CSQP (Catalonia, Yes We Can) is in favour too: "Maybe we’ll be lucky and the PP and C’s will change the [relevant law] and eliminate the begged for vote and employ electronic voting. If that happens, we’ll save ourselves this law, but if they don’t, what are we supposed to do? nothing? We have to take action and fulfill our duties”. Nuet argues that his coalition has presented a complete proposal for a new electoral system, which also includes electronic voting, “but for all Catalans, those in Vic and those in Sydney".

On the part of the CUP (Popular Unity Candidacy), Joan Garriga said: "between the state’s incompetence with the begged for vote and the inability of this chamber to draft its own electoral law, we have to find a solution: the Catalan communities abroad can’t carry on being the victims in all this, they demand to be treated like adults”.

Garriga, however, also criticised minister Borràs: "This law is an appendix to the organic law. Does she believe that the state will hand over the roll of Catalans abroad to use electronic voting? We don’t believe so, but if she manages it, we’ll celebrate".
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Translator’s Notes:

[1] An “organic law” (Spanish: Ley Orgánica) is a type of law defined by the 1978 Constitution for certain policy areas which must be passed in the Spanish Congress by an absolute majority, not a simple one.

[2] The “begged for vote” (Catalan: vot pregat) refers to the difficult bureaucratic process involved in applying for an overseas ballot.

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