Requests for mail vote triple a month before election
34,700 applications received, highest ever
BarcelonaAlthough the possibility that the February 14 elections will be postponed is gaining momentum, it seems that this scenario has not yet had an impact on the number of people who have already requested a postal vote. At this point, with one month left until February 14 elections, 34,700 people have already asked to vote by mail, according to data published on January 12 the Department of Foreign Affairs, the body in charge of organising the elections. This figure is three times that of four years ago, in the Parliamentary elections of 21 December 2017, when 36 days before the elections 10,666 people had requested a postal vote, according to the National Institute of Statistics (INE).
The health situation resulting from the pandemic has led hundreds of people to opt for this voting system to avoid crowding at polling stations on election day. In fact, the Government has been calling on citizens for weeks to opt for this option. This year, for the first time it was possible to apply online and, according to figures from the Department of Foreign Affairs, 15,900 people had applied by 12 January, approximately 46% of the total number of applications recorded by that date. In spite of having achieved unprecedented figures and their continued rise recent days, it is true that the timing has been different. On 5 January, 40 days before the elections, the department had registered 12,000 applications, four times more than the 3,000 registered in 2017 with the same days remaining. Ten days later, the increase is no longer four-fold but three-fold.
Be that as it may, if we look at the evolution over the last 15 years, the 34,700 applications represent a figure that had never been achieved before. The elections on 25 November 2012 come the closest, when, 28 days before the elections, 16,060 petitions were registered. However, the pace slowed down in the end and, for the time being, the elections of 27 September 2015 are the ones with the highest total number of applications: 109,262.
In fact, postal voting has been increasing as the years have gone by. This is demonstrated by the figures of the elections to the Parliament, but also those of the elections to the Congress, since one month before the April 28 and November 10 elections in 2019, 29,877 and 22,217 applications were registered in Catalonia, respectively. These figures skyrocketed if we take into account that until then they ranged from 4,000 to 9,000 petitions.
And if the elections are postponed?
However, if 14 February is finally postponed, these requests may be of no use. Sources in the department admit that anyone who wants to vote by mail will have to apply again, although this still needs to be decided. In the Basque Country and Galicia, the Electoral Commission determined that the applications sent for the elections on April 5 - postponed - had to be destroyed and, therefore, when the elections were finally held on July 12, voters wishing to cast their vote by mail had to re-submit their applications. With this precedent, it seems clear that if the February 14 elections are postponed the 34,700 requests of now will be in vain.