IMPROVED ARRANGEMENTS FOR VOTING IN ORIHUELA COSTA IN LOCAL ELECTIONS ON 24 MAY, 2015
Not only are there difficulties for non-Spanish EU residents to register to vote in local and European Parliament elections. Those who do register, and turn out to vote on the day of the election, may find queues and, as we saw in 2011 in the middle of the day, they may have to wait up to an hour in the midday sun.
To avoid a repetition of this situation, C.L.A.R.O. Councillor, Bob Houliston, presented a Motion in the full Council meeting (Plenary) at the end of February. The purpose of the Motion was to increase the number of voting stations and improve their geographic distribution. His Motion stated that in the last 8 years, the number of eligible voters in local elections in Orihuela Costa had doubled – up from just over 4,000 to over 8,000 in 2015. The number of voting stations, however, had not increased from the traditional three – the Playa Flamenca Town Hall, the nearby Civic centre and now the reading point in, for many, far away Calle Cipres in Lomas de Cabo Roig. Moreover, because of the extended nature of Orihuela Costa, some voters have to travel several kilometres to cast their votes. The average number of voters in each of Orihuela Costa's three voting stations in last year's European elections was over 2,300, more than the 2,000 maximum fixed by law. In Orihuela city and surrounding villages, the average number of voters per voting station ranges between 850 and 1,200. The solution proposed in the Motion was to have additional voting stations better dispersed in Orihuela Costa.
In the debate on the Motion it was obvious that other parties would not vote against such a reasonable and democratic proposal and the Motion was passed unanimously. However, there were a number of grumbles about the procedure and responsibility for making the voting day arrangements. One startling fact which emerged in the debate was that the legal maximum of 2,000 voters per voting station only applies to the number of Spanish voters. The number of non-Spanish EU voters does not count. This is an incredible admission. In Orihuela Costa there are more EU registered voters than Spanish voters. Article 19.1 of the EU Treaty stipulates the rights of EU citizens resident in another member state to vote and stand as candidates for municipal elections "under the same conditions as nationals of that State." It is almost certainly a contravention of EU law that a legal maximum on the number of voters per voting station only applies to Spanish nationals. It is also illogical. Spanish voters as well as EU voters have to queue in the same queue to vote and they suffer the same consequences of this unfair provision of Spanish law. C.L.A.R.O. will certainly consider a complaint on the matter to the European Parliament.
The fact that the Motion was passed unanimously did not convince C.L.A.R.O. that any action would result, especially since it emerged in the debate that the arrangements for 24 May would already have been agreed at the end of 2014 and that there would be the same traditional 3 voting stations in Orihuela Costa. Therefore, on 11 March, C.L.A.R.O. Councillor Bob Houliston visited the Alicante head of the Electoral Registration Office to check the situation. It was confirmed that in calculating the 2,000 maximum of voters per station, only Spanish voters counted. It was also confirmed that arrangements concerning the number of voting stations and the number of voting tables had been agreed with Orihuela Town Hall in December. However, Bob Houliston was told that if it was too difficult and too late to increase the number of voting stations, it would still be possible to increase the number of voting tables in voting stations which would speed up the voting procedure and reduce and possibly avoid having to queue to vote. However, only 3 to 4 days remained in which to consider a new proposal from OrihuelaTown Hall. The day after Bob Houliston's discussion in Alicante, the Electoral Registration Office and Orihuela Town Hall modified the December proposal and added 3 new voting tables in the two voting stations where the highest number of voters will vote: Playa Flamenca Town Hall and Calle Cipress in Lomas de Cabo Roig.
This is a small but significant victory and all that is possible for the forthcoming local elections. The Councillor for the Coast, Martina Scheurer, will publicise the final detailed arrangements closer to the date of the election. Registered voters will also be informed in due course by post as to which voting station and which voting table they should go to on 24 May.
C.L.A.R.O. hopes that with these improved arrangements, voters will be reassured that they should not be confronted with queues and the need to stand in the sun on the day of the election. We will need as big a turnout as possible on 24 May and a vote for those who will defend our interests. A stronger voice for Orihuela Costa in the new Town Council and in the next government in Orihuela is the only way the many improvements we need will be carried out.